Déjà Vu is a 2006 crime thriller with elements of science fiction. The film was directed by Tony Scott, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, and co-written by Bill Marsilii and Terry Rossio. The film stars Denzel Washington, Jim Caviezel, and Paula Patton as the main characters, but also includes actors Val Kilmer, Adam Goldberg and Matt Craven. Déjà Vu involves ATF agent Douglas Carlin, who travels back in time in attempts to prevent a domestic terrorist attack that takes place in New Orleans and to save a woman whom he falls in love with, Claire Kuchever. Filming took place throughout post-Katrina New Orleans..
The film premiered in New York City on November 20, 2006. It was released to the United States two days later, and to Mexico and Canada by the end of November. The film was released worldwide by the early months of 2007. It received mixed reviews from critics, and the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes’s compiled ratings give the film a below average rating. While earning $64 million in the United States, the film went on to gross $180 million worldwide; Déjà Vu was the twenty-third most successful film worldwide for 2006. The film was nominated for five awards, and won the International Golden Reel Award presented by Neilsen EDI.
On Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras in New Orleans, a ferry (the “Sen. Alvin T. Stumpf”) is carrying several hundred U.S. Navy sailors and their families from the Algiers dock to a celebration, when it explodes and sinks into the river, killing at least 543 on board. Agent Doug Carlin (Denzel Washington) from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is sent to investigate the explosion and discovers evidence that the attack was by a domestic terrorist. He meets with the investigating police officers and FBI Agent Paul Pryzwarra (Val Kilmer), letting them know of his findings. Back at his office, Doug learns about a charred body pulled from the river, that of a Claire Kuchever (Paula Patton). However, unlike the other bodies found in the river, this one was discovered before the explosion.
After Pryzwarra is impressed with Doug’s detective expertise, he convinces him to join a newly formed government-funded detective unit whose first case is to investigate the explosion. With a team led by scientist Dr. Alexander Denny (Adam Goldberg), they investigate the events leading up to the explosion by using a new program called “Snow White”, which enables them to look into the past (4 days, 6 hours, 3 minutes, 45 seconds) in detail. The catch is, they can only see the events once; there is no fast forwarding or rewinding, although they can record what they see. Convinced that Claire is a vital link to the case, Doug persuades the team to focus on her. Sure enough, while investigating Claire’s past through “Snow White”, eventually the bomber calls her to try and purchase her car to use to blow up the ferry. Although he decides to not purchase her car, during the phone call, the “Snow White” team is able to discover an exact time and place where they know the terrorist will be.
In the course of the investigation, Doug eventually discovers that “Snow White” is actually a time machine, capable of sending inanimate objects into the past. Despite Denny’s protests against tampering with the past, Doug has the team send a note back in time to his past self to inform the time and place to meet and stop the future ferry bomber. His partner, Larry Minuti (Matt Craven), mistakenly sees it first and, while checking up on it, is shot by the terrorist through his car door. After regaining consciousness, he is shot again and burned. In need of a new car, the terrorist in turn steals Claire’s car and kidnaps her.
Through face recognition technology, the ferry bomber is identified and taken into custody. He turns out to be a disillusioned man named Carroll Oerstadt (Jim Caviezel) who is angry at the U.S. government for being turned down for enlistment by the Marines and Army, who believed he was overcommitted and psychologically unstable. Convinced that the case is now closed, the government shuts down the “Snow White” unit. Despite the killer being caught, Claire and the ferry victims remain dead, which is unsettling to Doug considering that the “Snow White” team has means of controlling time. Doug consequently convinces Denny to do one last unauthorized experiment: send Doug to the past to save Claire and stop the ferry bombing. The procedure is risky, as until then no human had been sent through, and doing so could mean death to the time traveler. Against all odds, he survives the trip and saves Claire moments before Carroll originally cuts off her fingers.
After tending to a bullet wound at Claire’s house, Doug goes to the ferry where, with Claire’s help, he kills Carroll, but is unable to disarm the bomb. To save everyone on the ferry, Doug has Claire drive the SUV with the bomb off the ferry into the water just before it explodes. Claire is able to escape, but Doug is unable to get out before the bomb explodes and dies in the underwater explosion. As Claire mourns Doug’s death, she is approached by another Doug Carlin, the one from the present, who consoles her. As they drive off, the Beach Boys’ song, “Don’t Worry Baby”, which had played at the beginning of the film and at the end right before they drive the car off the boat, plays on the radio.