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SUMMER OF STARS #3: Denzel Washington — Moviejawn

In light of the film’s dependence on science and technology, it should be noted that there’s a science to the efficacy of action on the big screen. In his book about the interconnectedness between action movies and the brain’s response to it – Flicker: Your Brain On Movies – Washington University psychology professor Jeff Zacks writes that the brain’s prefrontal cortex assists one in connecting with cinematic images, making them more psychologically and emotionally real to the viewer. Since this area of the brain remains under a person’s cognitive control, one is able to sympathize with or respond to the action on the screen without the need to physically respond to the film’s action as well. “You know there is nothing up there on the screen that can touch you or hurt you or pull you out of your chair,” Zacks writes, “but we react as if they can.” In this fashion, the more compelling the film’s action – and the ferry explosion that introduces the central conflict of Deja Vu is alarmingly detailed – the more invested the audience in getting to the bottom of its cause, especially in bringing the perpetrators to justice. So as Carlin closes in on the bomber Carroll Oerstadt (unnervingly portrayed by Jim Caviezel), the audience is subject to a very similar rush of investigation, deduction, and resolution. And once the audience experiences the climax of the film, the audience can better appreciate the falling action and the denouement. 

A crime was committed. The crime was investigated. Justice was served. And the audience was satisfied. 

Unfortunately, this does little for the lives lost in the ferry bombing, including Claire’s. What makes Deja Vu such a unique criminal thriller is the team’s ability (led by Agent Pryzwarra portrayed by Val Kilmer, also no stranger by Tony Scott’s films) to anticipate Oerstadt’s actions and potentially stop him before he detonates the ferry bomb that will kill more than 200 people, including Claire. Now, justice is not simply a reaction to a tragedy – with the help of Snow White, justice can be proactive, if the team can simply figure out how to utilize Snow White to that advantage. Suddenly, the film becomes not just another example as to why Denzel Washington’s contributions to cinema are so indispensable but the very reason why director Tony Scott’s Deja Vu remains one of the most underrated – perhaps criminally unseen – entries in the encyclopedia of crime films. As seemingly never before, justice works here in order to truly save the day, not to simply exact reparations for a crime that’s already been committed. “For all of my career,” Carlin tells the team in a particularly heated moment of existential frustration, “I’ve been trying to catch people after they do something horrible. For once in my life, I’d like to catch somebody before they do something horrible.”

Spoiler alert: he does. 

And in so doing, Carlin doesn’t simply save the lives…

Read More: SUMMER OF STARS #3: Denzel Washington — Moviejawn

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