Saturday, November 25, 2006

Déjà Vu

2006, US, directed by Tony Scott

Every 'serious' film fan probably has a few pleasures that will never make the year-end lists at the highbrow movie publications, though usually they're labeled 'guilty'. I have a particular, and guilt-free, fondness for Tony Scott films, which often seem to boil down to boys-with-toys exercises wrapped up in slick, if nonetheless carefully imagined, visual style.

On one level, it seems absurd to see the credit 'A Film By Tony Scott', but at the same time it's hard to ignore the unity of purpose, both aesthetically and with regard to content, that runs through so many of his films. This film, like the increasingly prescient Enemy of the State in particular, returns to the territory of super-secret spy agencies, and although the film has fun with the possibilities therein, it's also uneasy about the consequences of such abilities to penetrate the veil, even where the intentions are good. Here, a government agency has enlisted a group of academics and most of the electricity in the New Orleans area to create a time-travel window that may assist in the investigation of a major terrorist outrage.

Unlike, say, the generally light-hearted consequences of time-travel in Back to the Future, there's a haunting sense of loss over every glimpse into the past, and Scott uses lighting and colour with skill to delineate the different moods (Scott never tires of visual experimentation, perhaps a result of his advertising background, but here the effects serve a purpose, whereas I found them ultimately distracting in his previous collaboration with Denzel Washington, Man on Fire). Past and present come together in an absorbing and original chase sequence that delivers the thrills you'd expect from such fare (along with the often questionable use of major disasters for entertainment purposes), but it's the rich atmosphere that lingers after the credits roll.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States