Massawyrm Experiences DEJA VU!! Massawyrm Experiences DEJA VU!!
Published at: Nov. 13, 2006, 12:15 p.m. CST by merrick
Hola all. Massawyrm here.
God, I love me some Tony Scott. Over the years the man has simply become one of my favorite working filmmakers. But it wasn’t until recently that I began to realize just what the hell he’s up to. Now, just having seen his most recent effort Déjà vu, it’s become quite clear. Tony Scott is making experimental action films, with Hollywood budgets, somehow managing to convince the suits (probably with his long string of hit films) to put such lavish budgets into ideas that few other filmmakers could get away with.
I mean, with Man on Fire, he made a tightly edited 70’s style revenge film that still feels very modern – and is ultimately a love story between an 8 year old girl and a forty-something year old man. And it kicks seven different kinds of ass. He had screenwriter Brian Helgeland adapt a long forgotten, mediocre 1980’s film and just turned him loose – turning out one of the greatest films of both men’s careers. And what makes it so great is just how far it goes, going places Hollywood films most often refuse to go. Up to and including its both nihilistic and hopeful ending. No Hollywood film ends like this one did. What would have happened if the suits were in charge would have been a massive, explosion filled shoot out followed by Denzel carrying Dakota out with the burning carnage behind them. But that ain’t the ending.
Then with Domino, he made a highly inaccessible film that you either loved or you hated. As many of you may remember (and often remind me that I owe you 7 bucks) I loved the hell out of it. The idea of an action film told by a character still tripping on Mescaline played to me perfectly. That’s the kind of film I enjoy watching – something that just goes all out giving me something I’ve never seen before. And at the same time, ole’ Tony had the huevos to parody one of his own films in its climax. It was a fun, and highly entertaining piece of experimental cinema that just wasn’t for everybody.
The big complaint about both of these films, however, is that too many people feel that Tony has gotten too happy with his editing kit. Which brings us to Déjà vu. That kit is gone, locked away in the toybox, presumably (looking at his upcoming slate of films) gone for a while, if not forever. People complained and Tony seemed to get the message. Déjà vu is a return to straight forward editing that is guaranteed not to induce seizures in any way. No jittering camera work, no repeated dialog, nothing. It is exactly what you’ve been asking for.
But that’s not to say that it isn’t a gorgeous film – because it is. All of the hallmarks of Scott’s brilliant visual style are here, reuniting him with DoP Paul Cameron (Man on Fire, Beat the Devil) who together give us that crystal clear yet gritty look that Scott’s films have had over the last decade or so.
But how is the film? Fucking awesome. Seriously fucking awesome. I simply love how deceptive the trailers have been. They don’t lie – they’re not selling you something they don’t deliver. Instead, they just haven’t prepared you for what you are about to see. Because this, my friends, is a geek film. Yes, a GEEK FILM.
Frankly, it boggles the mind how Tony got another one through the Hollywood system. This script is dense, it’s heavy and it requires an above average IQ just to wrap your mind completely around it. Déjà vu is a Time Travel film – one which actually deals with the concept of time travel. Not one in which some magical machine is invented by a genius named Principle Exposition who sets out all the rules and sends our heroes off on some adventure in the past. No, this is something that a couple of geniuses accidentally stumbled upon while trying to do something else (one of the hallmarks of the scientific method) and don’t actually fully understand what they’ve created.
Which leads to the heavy, dense part. Because they TRY to explain it – or rather, argue it. This is a Time Travel film for people who love the ever-loving shit out of Time Travel fiction. Every conversation you’ve had about time travel, every theory you’ve heard or tried to rationalize – they’re all here, presented in some rapid fire scenes of geek/nerd blissful banter that will cause many of you to dive in head first while others (like the woman sitting behind me who couldn’t stop muttering “I just don’t get this. What the hell are they saying? Time is like a river? What? Are you following this?”) to scratch their confused skulls until they bleed.
And what’s even cooler than this being a time travel film, is the way it is structured. Each act is a different movement, in fact each act is almost an entirely different film. It opens with the first act being something akin to a ramped up, really good episode of CSI, if CSI dealt terrorist attacks. Then we move into the second act, which introduces us to the time travel phenomenon and becomes a bizarre surveillance/stakeout film. Then, in the third act, it becomes a real, honest to god Time Travel movie. And the progression, the exposition, the argument of the films internal logic – it all feels very organic, very authentic. You’re never sitting there waiting for the next part to happen. It just progresses very naturally.
Because all the while, Scott is giving you some of those amazing, inventive set pieces that he is so well known for. There is one scene in particular that is so fucking cool, so never been done, that even if for some reason you end up hating this, you’ll walk out saying “Well the chase scene was pretty fucking awesome.” Because it is. It’s the scene this movie will become known for. I can say with complete certainty that A) it is absolutely unlike anything you ever seen and B) it is absolutely worth seeing this film for, if nothing else.
And thematically, this is an interesting companion film to Scott’s Enemy of the State which argued against Government intrusion with domestic surveillance. This time, Scott has made a film that is clearly a Post 9/11 answer to his earlier work, making an argument for a certain level of necessary surveillance – but never once gets as heavy handed as Enemy of the State was. Interestingly enough, this film has scenes that echo the earlier film’s great Jack Black/Seth Green stake out sequences, this time giving us the playful banter of an Adam Goldberg led crew of snarky post grads, each and every one of whom seem to have their own theory on time travel.
Virtually every aspect of this film works perfectly. Save one. The Time Travel logic. Now here’s the point that will become most divisive among folks out there – because there are three levels to this. There’s the surface level, which most average movie goers are going to fall into which follows along with the films “Look, we have no idea how this thing works” logic. And as a film, there is zero reason to question the logic. But then there are those who are going to observe it and say “Now wait a second – that doesn’t follow through with what he did here.” And to a certain extent, those folks are right. Taking the pieces of this film at face value and believing that the film has actually set up a definite internal logic of how the time travel works will definitely cause an argument or two amongst your friends. However, the third and presumably final level is going a step further and saying “Wait a second, there’s no definitive rules here. So how does this work?” That’s where I fell in. And I honestly believe the logic works. I love the puzzling nature and enjoyed putting all the pieces together. But I know some folks that disagreed.
Hell, my roommate completely disagreed with me. We argued time travel logic for an hour after this (be prepared for that – it’s that kind of a film that you geeks are gonna want to debate) and could never convince the other that our logic was the most solvent. So I asked him after all was said and done “So, you didn’t like it?” He shook his head and said “No, I loved it. I just wish the time travel made a little more sense.” It’s that kind of a film. It really is good enough that even if the logic of the films ending doesn’t satisfy you, the rest of it will.
This is a thinking mans action film. A tense, thrilling science fiction wonderland that feels like Jerry Bruckheimer got some wild hair up his ass to adapt an unknown Phillip K. Dick novel, and then had the tenacity to say “Fuck ‘em if they don’t get it. Those folks will love all the pretty explosions.” It’s a damn fine film, and easily one of the best Time travel films ever made.
Let’s face it. NO ONE knows how time travel works, but everyone has their theory. All of us do. There isn’t a person out there that hasn’t contemplated how great time travel would be at some point in their life. But, you know, since it DOESN’T ACTUALLY EXIST, there’s no way of knowing who’s right when we argue about it. This is the first film I’ve seen that pretty much comes out and admits that. And then proceeds to play with that fact. Part of the films tension stems from not knowing what actions are going to have what effect on the timestream – and it is pure, nerdy joy.
So, to recap, it’s another experimental Tony Scott film with everything you love about Scott and nothing that you don’t. This is quality, heady Sci-fi at its finest. And it comes Highly Recommended. I honestly feel that even those of you who take issue with Scott are gonna dig this on one level or another.
Until next time friends, smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em.