Note: There are some mild spoilers here. I don't give away the specifics, but if you don't know anything about this movie other than that it is a techno-thriller with Denzel Washington and if you are interested in watching it - don't read on. FWIW, I knew very little about this movie before watching it, which was probably a good thing. If you're on the fence about whether or not you wanted to see it, what I have to say below probably won't help any. I thought it was okay, but I really wouldn't recommend it to anyone. I mean, if your boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife really wanted to watch it, you might as well humour them - it certainly wasn't painful to sit through. But no need to go out of your way.
My guess is that if David Cronenberg's name was on this movie (i.e., if it were the exact same movie otherwise), film critics might have gone into overdrive praising its dissection of the way digital technology has affected the way we deal with the past and the way we relate to each other. Luckily, Tony Scott's name is on it, so we can easily see it for what it is: a thriller that is just barely good enough for the kind of thing it is that you don't feel like you completely wasted two hours of your life watching it.
There are two main problems with the movie.
- This may be one of those bug/feature things, but it seems like the premise of the movie grew out new digital filmmaking technology that allows filmmaker's to do all sorts of crazy swooshes and zooms: where the "camera" is no longer something moving through and capturing images of "reality" and is, instead, a our p.o.v. into a digitally created world. On the one hand, it's nice to see an effects-heavy movie where the signature effects actually have some thematic weight*. On the other hand, the movies feels like it was built around this effect rather than the other way around. It stops dead in its track for the big scene where the filmmakers get to show it off. And, unfortunately, the way they show it off isn't really all that clever or engaging.
- The bigger problem is that while watching it I couldn't help thinking of similar, better movies. Ugh - I know, I know: the title makes it almost impossible for a film critic not to say something like this, but it's true! Deja Vu is dumber than Primer and doesn't have the emotional depth of Twelve Monkeys.
Maybe it's all relative, though: compared to many action-thrillers, this might come off like Vertigo. Denzel is pretty good, even he's not doing anything new (which I guess is kind of a bummer after how exciting he was to watch in Inside Man).
Hmmmm... I'm so "meh" about this movie it's kind of depressing. I mean, in lots of ways it's better than you're standard Michael Bay fare, but at least Bay's movies have their own personality. They're full of lousy filmmaking and empty spectacle, but they're also kind of quirky. I find myself rooting for something like The Island, just because it's such a misguided idea. And, though I was bored at first by Bad Boys II, I can do nothing else but stand up and applaud a movie that decides to, almost out-of-nowhere, at its hour-and-a-half mark, invade Cuba.
*As opposed to technology there for its own sake. Earlier this year, I wondered why Monster House had been done as an animated CGI film and came up with the unsatisfactory response: because the filmmakers could do it that way. Likewise the new Robert Zemeckis-directed Beowulf movie: Zemeckis seems to be in love with this motion capture technology to the extent that he wants to use it even on projects where it doesn't really seem to fit.