A re-review: I have mellowed somewhat in my feelings toward Déjà Vu since it was new, but not enough that I'd feel the need to revise anything I said before, except that my original review, however fair or not fair at the time, has become unspeakably tasteless in light of the manner of Scott's death on 19 August, 2012. I certainly don't want that to be my final statement on the matter, and this review, though changing little of my thoughts, greatly changes my expression.

Though you could easily write a plot synopsis without bringing it up, there's no way to sum up the feel of Tony Scott's 2006 time-travel action picture Déjà Vu without noting that it is a pretty straightforward attempt to marry 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina in one all-encompassing delivery system for America's 2000s-era national PTSD. And maybe that's even an okay thing, as such, for it is the privilege of art to help a culture work through its psychological issues. But it would be even more okay if Déjà Vu wasn't, in fact, a Tony Scott film, since whatever charms that filmmaker has, emotional sincerity is not one of his strengths as a filmmaker. Look at it this way: the year prior, Steven Spielberg brought overt, explicit 9/11 imagery into War of the Worlds, a Tom Cruise action movie about giant alien spaceships blowing things up, and he made it feel legitimate and meaningful, because wrenching the viewer's tenderest heartstrings is what he does - his shtick, you might even say. Scott's shtick was to make things look like a TV commercial for violent lifestyles, and he was good at it, but that is maybe the worst possible tone to bring to a film seeking to pay any kind of appropriate tribute to two great tragedies.

Taking place in New Orleans, Louisiana, in February, 2006 (that is to say, just under half a year after Katrina devastated the city), Déjà Vu opens with a massive explosion on a ferry that kills more than five hundred innocents, whose deaths are depicted in appallingly tender detail for something that is meant to be horrifying, and it is easily the worst part of the whole picture. Among the many government agents brought into to figure out what the hell happened - at this point, it's not even clear that it's a crime or accident - we meet Doug Carlin (Denzel Washington) of the ATF, a New Orleans native and savant at reading crime scenes. It's he who finds the evidence proving this was a bomb; it's he, too, who discovers that one ravaged corpse in particular was killed long before the explosion, with her body left behind to be wiped out in the devastation, removing evidence of whatever separate crime left her dead. Intuiting that the smart money is on trying to solve her murder and not the bombing, Doug is ready to get to good old nuts and bolts policing, when FBI Special Agent Paul Pryzwarra (Val Kilmer) brings him along on a very special task force using high technology to stitch satellite imagery into a video loop that can be explored with unprecedented clarity and versatility, with the caveat that it can only display exactly what happened four days and six hours ago.

Indeed, it's higher tech than that: this mysterious operation is actually an honest-to-God time window, and what Doug is watching isn't a record of past events, but the actual events unfolding in real time. And it's while observing murder victim Claire Kuchever (Paula Patton) that he starts to formulate the idea not to solve the mystery of her death and the ghastly bombing, but to prevent those crimes from ever having taken place, though the projects tech heads Denny (Adam Goldberg) and Gunnars (Elden Henson) have no idea what would happen if they tried to send matter - let alone a human being - through their very arbitrary and irreplaceable wormhole.

Time travel movies that don't include the words "back", "to", or "future" in their title are alarmingly sensitive to all kinds of plot holes, and Déjà Vu, at least, only suffers from one basic misstep, which is that the rules of time travel seem to largely consist of "whatever will allow the most dramatic scene in this moment", which is why some of the individual technologies brought out don't seem to work exactly the way they're meant to, and why the big (and, to be frank, hackneyed) Fate vs. Free Will debate that ends up cropping up is sacrificed to the gods of a big "WOW" ending, regardless of whether that ending is emotionally earned the way that writers Bill Marsilii and Terry Rossio mean for it to be. Basically, it's a movie that cares more about what is cool than what makes sense, which only works to its benefit one single time: during a shamelessly awesome car chase in which Doug is watching, through his left eye, the rainy night of four days and six hours prior, chasing a past-car while attempting to dodge present-traffic on a crowded bridge. And perhaps it works a second time as well, in a single scene where a whole mess of erratic clues dribbled across the first hour suddenly erupt in an orgy of Doug trying to send himself a message across time, though this is hobbled a bit by the fact that the script flags each and every one of those clues a little too obviously as Something We Need To Notice For Later.

For the most part, though, Déjà Vu is a compromised half-measure of a film, too busy chasing it's admittedly fantastic science fiction concept to commit to being much of an action movie, while being so obviously terrified that its audience is made up of a bunch of meathead action junkies who won't be able to follow even marginally complicated concepts without a diagram. Thus it plods through exposition, repeatedly, and laboriously, practically daring us to be quicker on the uptake than Doug is (the fact that most of the exposition comes through Goldberg's mouth, with a spin on the words that can only be interpreted as "I am contemptuous of you and your remedial understanding of physics" certainly doesn't help with the idea that the filmmakers have no faith in their audience). It's too talky to be cool, and too concepty to be exciting, and that's even setting aside the giant elephant in the room, which is that it's unpleasantly exploitative of national tragedy (the villain, when we meet him, is an obvious Timothy McVeigh analogue, making it an American trauma threefer).

With Chris Lebenzon in the editing room and Paul Cameron on camera, one would expect an explosive eruption of style at least; these are the men, after all, responsible for Scott's best-cut film (Crimson Tide) and his best-shot (Man on Fire) and yet it's rather more sedate than it has every reason to be; perhaps the recent, chaotic, Domino had left the director weary of doing something too aggressive in its aesthetic, but while there's nothing wrong with the way the film was made, it's hardly impressive even at the level of glossy spectacle, like almost all of Scott's previous work with producer Jerry Bruckheimer; too much urban realism for that, but not enough for that to emerge as an aesthetic in its own right.

The single element that keeps Déjà Vu from evaporating entirely as a totally meaningless bit of junk is, not very shockingly, Washington, whose performance is better than the character deserves (the rest of the cast is pretty solid, at that, though he dominates the film far more than he dominates his other collaborations with Scott - even Man on Fire at least had all those two-hander scenes with Dakota Fanning), even though it is not a tremendously deep turn in the context of his career. Mostly, the actor coasts along on his steady voice, knowing eyes, and automatic gravity, but that's enough to sell us the idea that Doug is all the wonderful things the movie needs him to be. A little bit of actorly authority helps to keep the nonsense feeling plausible, at least, though it never becomes plausible enough to be dramatically effective, and it's certainly not enough to make a movie that's in love with its gimmick at the expense of everything else to work as a solid mystery narrative. But with Washington guiding the way, it at least manages to be painless, and it very directly paved the way for Scott's final pair of movies, which were rather more successful and a far better send-off to a spotty, but frequently appealing career of shiny entertainments and cinematic baubles.