CENTURY CITY, California — You’re an attractive woman, young and cheery and full of possibility. Your no-good fiance just packed up and left town, but you walk away dignified — even hopeful. Who would have thought that just a few days later you’d meet the man of your dreams? Handsome, heroic, noble, he’s everything you could have ever wanted. The two of you quickly develop a relationship.
Oh yeah, just one problem — you died four days ago.
Such is the fantastical premise of Tony Scott’s “Déjà Vu,” a new sci-fi thriller starring Denzel Washington as Doug Carlin, an ATF agent who falls in love with a murder victim after watching her through surveillance technology that literally allows him to look into the past.
“It’s just bizarre to even talk about someone who has passed away [like that]. That you get to watch the last four days of their life and get to know them because of your job, and then actually get to meet them,” Washington said. “I think Doug Carlin is someone who is a bit more comfortable with evidence, and not with people. And so the relationship develops over time.”
This “relationship in reverse,” as Washington calls it, begins when Claire (Paula Patton) washes ashore after a ship carrying hundreds of passengers is blown up in New Orleans Harbor. Realizing her death may hold the key to finding the terrorist behind the attack, Carlin begins studying her every move, peering into her most private moments using time-bending cameras.
“She is [only seen] in this voyeuristic way,” Patton revealed. “So you get to know a person when they are all by themselves in their apartment, in their underwear.”
“In this case, [Carlin] had the opportunity to meet without meeting this girl and see her in a way you wouldn’t necessarily ever see a victim,” Washington continued. “In their private moments when they don’t know they are being watched.”
What begins as a professional investigation quickly turns romantic, ultimately leading Carlin to risk his own life to save Claire’s. And the only way he can do that is by going back in time.
“All of his life, he’s been trying to solve crimes after they’ve been committed. For once he would like to solve a crime before it’s been committed. So yes, it is professional,” Washington mused. “One could argue that’s no different than what a cop does every day on the streets, putting his life on the line trying to stop a crime or something, but I think that to take that leap — to want to attempt to do what he does and put his life on the line — it’s a little bit of both [professional and personal motivations].”
It’s that mix that “Idlewild” star Patton credits with creating a plausible excuse for Washington to go back in time, suggesting he doesn’t so much fall in love with Claire as he does with the idea of Claire, an innocent bystander he can finally save.
“I think that the human heart wants to save an innocent victim, and I do think that you sort of fall in love with the idea of Claire,” she said. “You see an innocent person, a seemingly good person, and you know that trouble is going to come down her path. And I think that any one of us would want to somehow warn her or help her.”
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