Let me put it this way: I would pay good money to watch Denzel Washington read the phone book. I might prefer that he read the yellow pages rather than the white, but I'd leave that up to him. In all the history of movies, there has never been an actor with the looks, the warmth, the voice, the intimacy and the sexiness of Washington; he's managed to redefine the word icon, adding a kind of intimacy and a relationship with the audience that the icons of the thirties and forties never had.
Having said that, the script of his new film, "Deja Vu," stretches the bounds of even my patience. Washington can make me believe an awful lot of nonsense, but this one is beyond even his abilities. In this new film from Jerry Bruckheimer and director Tony Scott, Washington is an ATF agent, Doug Carlin, assigned to solve the mystery of why a ferry-boat load of 543 sailors and their families has been blown up on the Canal Street-Algiers ferry in New Orleans.
How does he solve it? Well, there's the rub. It turns out that the FBI has invented a way to look four days into the past (don't ask; every time they turn the machine on it uses so much power that it blows every fuse in the eastern United States, though no one seems to have investigated it). Anyway, Carlin's first clue is that the body of a beautiful young woman, Claire Kuchever (Paula Patton) has floated to shore, except that she was killed before the blast; did the bomber kill her first? Let's look four days into the past and see whether there are any clues.
Well, yes there are. But since we know from the beginning of the film that Jerry Bruckheimer would never allow 543 American sailors (and their families) to actually die just for a movie, we're going to - yes - send Doug Carlin four days into the past to unravel the mystery. And maybe, just maybe, fall in love with Claire while she's still alive and there's a possibility of saving her life. If, that is, he can catch the villain before he actually does the deed.
Okay, it's an idea; not a good idea, but if anybody can pull it off so we can suspend our disbelief it's Denzel Washington. And believe it or not, he does. I was entranced by the hocus-pocus. At least for the duration of the film I actually believed that you could do things with time-warps and wormholes and whatever mumbo-jumbo those FBI guys put together. But the payoff was a stretch far beyond anything anyone would believe, and so the team of Bruckheimer and Scott, a team that once gave us the marvelously paranoid film "Enemy of the State," has settled for a third-rate plot that evaporates the moment we understand what's happening. And much as I hate to admit it, not even Denzel Washington can save it.