Déjà Vu ★★★★★

A police procedural compounded by time travel and obsessive longing, as if someone reverse-engineered Vertigo from Chris Marker's deconstruction of it in Sans soleil, then decided to wrap it up in an overarching response to the entire failure of the Bush era, from the Patriot Act to Hurricane Katrina, and then put THAT into a fragmented action thriller. The result is nearly unclassifiable, parlaying the one-sided, unhealthy romantic obsession of the savior complex of thrillers that Vertigo so brutally unpacked into a broader rumination on the security state, one that finds no value in a massive surveillance apparatus that violates every norm only to find the guilty but does find a more complex, purely fantastical hope in the idea of undoing horrors. Compared to the reactionary conservatism that infected even the most liberal post-9/11 films, this feels altogether messier and more mournful, wish fulfillment that comes at a bittersweet cost.

Scott's final years are marked by a turn toward a chaotic brand of filmmaking that shares many traits with Michael Bay: circling helicopter shots, oversaturated colors and rapid edits. But where Bay's method is to craft a visual approximation of a Girl Talk album, always getting the money shot in a blitzkrieg of iconography, Scott is relentlessly interested in his actors. The film is filled with snap zooms that pick up on every small change in facial expression as shock or anguish hits, and Scott also uses the camera's restlessness to reflect the manner in which Doug and the other investigators can hop around every angle as they peer into the past, creating fragmented, encircling views that remind us that we are watching the watchmen, peeking into their own troubled, private behavior as much as Doug stares at the blown-up image of Claire. Also, the meta-temporal car chase through time in which Doug races down streets while following the bomber in the past is one of the wildest action sequences of the century.

This is one of the great American films of the century to date, a singular achievement in big-budget filmmaking that feels completely out of time, belonging to no era in which something like this would need a sign-off by a studio looking at an account ledger and focus testing. The critical tide has turned generally in Scott's favor, but it has a ways to go before this enters the modern canon where it belongs.

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