Follow TV Tropes


Film / Déjà Vu (2006)

Go To
It's a phenomenon known as Déjà vu. It's a phenomenon known as Déjà vu.

Alex: You don't have to do this.
Doug: Maybe I already have.

2006 film starring Denzel Washington, Val Kilmer, Jim Caviezel, and Paula Patton.

Following a deadly ferry explosion on Fat Tuesday that kills hundreds of US Navy personnel and their families, New Orleans ATF agent Doug Carlin (Washington) finds the body of a woman near the wreckage who appears to have been tortured and killed before the ferry explosion.

While pursuing the evidence, he is recruited by FBI agent Pryzwarra (Kilmer) who brings him to a small team that has a machine that can view anything in New Orleans four days and six hours in the past, which they hope will help them find the killer. When Doug eventually figures out how the system works, cue the Time Travel Tropes.

This film contains examples of:

  • Action Girl: Claire, as shown in the timeline where she survives. Boldly threatening an extremely experienced crime investigator into lying down or evading security to the cargo area? Not too shabby for a bystander.
  • Ahem: Done when making the technician to stop looking at Claire naked in the shower in the past.
  • Always Save the Girl: Though Doug wants to save as many people as possible, he seems to prioritize Claire a lot. He'll thank his gut for making him think that, since she ends up assisting him in stopping Carroll and his bombs.
  • Arc Words: "What if you had to tell someone the most important thing in the world, but you knew they'd never believe you?" "I'd try."
  • Armor-Piercing Question: "Is she alive or dead?" It involves a computer screen being broken spectacularly before the question is answered: Claire's alive, at least when viewed through the chronoscope.
  • Bad Present: Once time travel is introduced, the current timeline is demoted to this.
  • Big Blackout: The copious amounts of electricity needed to fuel the wormhole are a drain on New Orleans' power.
  • The Big Easy: Played With, the emphasis is on a ferry rather than on the typical street events of Mardi Gras.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Larry will always stay dead no matter what Future!Doug does, and Future!Doug himself, as well as several other police and Mariners, die while stopping the bomb from blowing up the ferry. However, Claire and the ferry passengers are saved, and Claire gets to meet Past!Doug. Though he doesn't recognize her, "she'd try".
  • Broken Record:
    Doug: That broached the field, right there. That broached the field, right there. That's what broached the field.
  • Car Chase: Chasing a car that doesn't exist in the present, no less! Consequently, Doug appears to others to be driving crazy for absolutely no reason whatsoever. On top of that, the "mobile unit" that Doug is using to actually see the car he's chasing is damaged mid-chase(because watching a little screen while you're driving is the definition of distracted driving), so he has to complete the pursuit while taking instructions from Mission Control — and they can only see where he's facing.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Literally. In the chronoscope, Claire is seen hiding a revolver below her pillow when she feels that someone is stalking her (actually the sounds of Pryzwarra's team talking from behind the screen). It comes back again when she threatens Future!Doug to lie down while she confirms his identity.
  • Chronoscope: The key plot device. If supercharged, it even permits physical time travel.
  • Computer Equals Monitor: The main monitor of the chronoscope not only shows the feed from the wormhole, it's apparently a direct line to it. Doug shines a laser pointer at it to confirm his theory that there's more to the device than the team was initially willing to tell him. Averted later when he arbitrarily smashes a secondary monitor to prove a point; sure, they're annoyed, but it's not that big a deal.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death:
    • In the Bad Present, Claire gets her fingers chopped off, shot, burned alive, then thrown to the river, in that order.
    • Also Larry. He gets shot first, which doesn't kill him right away, but then Carroll offs him, burns him, then throws his body to the bayou, where he's eaten by an alligator.
    • Carroll gets the lower half of his body crushed with a car (ironically, Claire's jeep) and Doug shoots him in the head while he's distracted from the pain.
  • Dead Man's Trigger Finger: Variant. Having the lower half of his body crushed when Claire rams him with the car, Carroll keeps pulling the triggers of his dual H&K MP-5Ks in his agony. When Doug then shoots him in the head, he finally lets go of the triggers.
  • Dead Partner: At the start Doug's partner, Larry, has his car found at the bomb site and though he is dead he is accidentally killed by Doug's note.
  • Death Is Cheap: Going on the mission back in time to stop Claire from dying.
  • Death of a Child: At least in the current timeline. The ferry carries a school-worth of children. None of them are spared.
  • Déjà Vu: Despite lending the movie its title, this doesn't occur until the end of the film when Denzel Washington's character seems to recall the memories of his temporal duplicate who died just before he showed up.
  • Dies Wide Open: Claire, in the Bad Present.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Gunnars (and every other people in the room, actually, except for Shanti) enjoys peepi-er, "investigating" Claire, particularly when she takes a bath.
    Shanti:: (deadpan) Is there anything scientific and important in watching women bath in the nude?
  • Doppelgänger Replacement Love Interest: Not really, but the general feeling is the same. Future!Doug and Claire gets to spend some meaningful hours together to bond before the former gets killed while trying to remove the bomb from the ship. Since this resets the timeline, however, Claire doesn't have to grieve for so long, because another Doug (Past!Doug) arrives at the scene, this time to a timeline where she survives.
  • Eat the Evidence: Larry's body is fed to an alligator, but not totally eaten when found.
  • Everybody Lives: This is Doug's main goal in the film, other than screwing destiny. As he puts it: "Every time I investigate a crime, it's always after it already has been committed. I want to solve a crime before it is committed". He still fails because, due to an unfortunate event happening in the original timeline, Carroll will always kill Larry, and some police and Mariners will always be killed as collateral damage. But he is able to save the ferry's 500+ passengers, as well as Claire.
  • Evidence Scavenger Hunt: After the bomb, in Claire's house, and at the suspect's house.
  • Fold the Page, Fold the Space: Happens when Doug demands a Layman's Terms explanation for how the scientists established a live feed connection to a timeline four days in the past. Denny holds up a blank sheet of paper and then folds it to explain how they folded space and time to create a wormhole into the past.
  • Freeze-Frame Ending: The film ends with a freeze frame of the hero in his car.
  • Guns Akimbo: Carroll manages to keep the multiple soldiers and policemen trying to barge into the ferry's vehicle area at bay by shooting at them in this fashion. With sub-machine guns (dual H&K MP-5Ks) no less.
  • Handguns: The only weapon in this film except Claire's revolver and the sub-machine guns at the climax.
  • Hero Insurance: Aside from him saying "Send paramedics to the bridge," no mention is made of the serious injuries and possibly deaths Doug causes driving half blind that results in multiple car accidents.
  • Historical Rap Sheet: The last time that the Time Machine was used to try to send something into the past instead of just viewing it, the power draw accidentally caused the Northeast blackout of 2003.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • Does it count if Doug is repeating something back to Carroll that Carroll's past self technically hasn't said yet?
    • Also, when Doug first sees Claire in the Coroner's office he calls out "Claire" to her. Later When Claire first meets Doug!2, after the explosion that killed Doug!1, she calls out "Doug" exactly the same way Doug had in the Coroner's office
  • It Always Rains at Funerals: It rains lightly during Claire's funeral. Justified as it is set in New Orleans, and there were concerns that the shoot in which the crew simulated rain would be interrupted by a real rain. The seasonal monsoon serendipitously delayed until immediately after shooting.
  • Layman's Terms: Doug continuously does this when the scientists are trying to explain how it all works resulting in explanations using a blank piece of paper and a broken screen.
    Doug: I said explain it to me! Not talk science.
  • Leitmotif: A five-note bugle call constantly appears on the soundtrack whenever Carroll's presence is felt - major clues, on-screen murders, his capture and interrogation before Doug goes back in time and his rampage at the climax.
  • Meaningful Funeral: Claire's at the start.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Had Doug not written the note to his past self, Larry and Claire will never be involved in the event. To be fair, without Claire's help, he wouldn't be able to kill Carroll and disarm the bomb, though.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Claire's father, though only in the current timeline. Also, the ferry carries a lot of children and adults who have parents, too. No longer the case in the ending.
  • Plot Hole: The article on the Other Wiki includes a diagram showing that four runs of the timeline are needed in order to explain the events in the movie. In Timeline 3 (the timeline before the events of the movie) Claire is burned alive and has her fingers cut off by Carroll at her apartment. Yet there is no evidence of this present in her apartment during the police investigation. Also, how would Carroll have had enough time to do all that and beat Doug to the ferry in time to set off the explosion?
  • Prison Rape:
    Carroll:'d better have some divine intervention, buddy. You're gonna need it.
    Doug: You'd better have some K Y. You're gonna need it.
  • Retroactive Recognition: Elle Fanning, sister of Dakota Fanning, appears as one of the many children on the ferry boat.
  • Right-Wing Militia Fanatic: Carroll is a one-man militia, a guy who aced all of the tests needed to enter the military... except for the psych, which came back as "too damn crazy". He calls himself a patriot who is doing what he needs is necessary to raise awareness of how unprepared America is in terms of terrorism... and thus he deems 500 deaths, including many children, as both a "necessary sacrifice" and "it was fate".
  • Screw Destiny: After the Because Destiny Says So speech by the criminal this becomes Doug's standpoint on the whole crime.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The cover story for the Time Machine and its usage for (incredibly accurate) reconstruction of an area involves the (supposed) deployment of a satellite network called "The Seven Dwarfs".
    • The terrorist's name is Carroll.
  • Single Tear:
    • At the end Claire does this when she and Doug are in the car with the bomb and she's certain she's going to die.
    • After Doug's interrogation of the terrorist responsible for the bombing, he lets out a single tear after he confides in Doug his belief that everything is inevitable.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The song "Don't Worry, Baby" by the Beach Boys playing right before the ferry explodes and at the end which is the same time as the start.
  • Spy Satellite: The official cover of the time viewer program (code-named "Snow White") is that it controls an array of super-sophisticated satellites that can make a super-detailed simulation of an area (this absurd amount of detail is also the reason why there's a 4-day delay and why it can't be rewound or recorded). Doug eventually calls bullshit on how over-complicated this set-up is and thus is finally told about the wormhole.
  • Stable Time Loop: Doug's mission is to avoid one since he wants to save Claire and the ferry victims. If Doug failed in the movie there is a good chance that this would have started a multi-timeline loop where Doug is creating clues in one timeline that he subsequently eliminates the next time he goes back in time starting the entire process over.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Very much so. It starts with the gigantic fireball that destroys a ferry and never looks back.
  • Techno Babble: Making the question 'is she alive or dead?' seem difficult and this was before the Time Travel.
  • Time Is Dangerous: Sending a living person through the chronoscope disrupts electrical activity inside of their bodies, sending them into convulsions and disrupting their heart. To counter this, Doug transports himself into an ER with the words "REVIVE ME" written on his chest.
  • Time-Travel Tense Trouble:
    • The team's not exactly sure how to describe Claire's existence (or lack thereof) as they are observing her.
    • Also evidenced by the page quote.
  • Twofer Token Minority: Pryzwarra's team developing the chronoscope machine is all white males, except for Shanti, who is a black woman.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: At first glance, the movie seems to have more plot holes than a golf course... unless one sees through the rather convoluted storyline. Good luck figuring this out the first time you're watching the movie.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Carroll is your typical post-9/11 paranoid that believes that the United States is unprepared against terrorist attacks (and too blind to see this), and decides that performing a terrorist attack (with the biggest casualties possible, a "sacrifice" in the multiple digits) will drive the government to assume a more hard-core stance on preventing future attacks.
  • Western Terrorists: Type 1: The bomber is discovered to be a disgruntled and mentally unstable US citizen who was denied entry into the US military.
  • You Already Changed the Past: In regards to Doug's note to himself, which Larry picked up and caused his death this was already done but subverted when Doug himself goes back and stops the ferry boat deaths from happening.

Alternative Title(s): Deja Vu