Hey, I don't even like science fiction, but I loved the movie "Deja Vu," directed by Tony Scott, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, and starring Denzel Washington, with Paula Patton. "Deja Vu" won't let me go.
Without giving the show away, I'll say that the plot involves time travel. Right, how much more science fictiony can you get? Thing is, the technology and the characters are told so convincingly that it was no problem at all to suspend not only my disbelief but also my usual aversion to science fiction. I mean, Denzel Washington! And the best performance I've seen by Val Kilmer, who was perhaps responding to Washington and to Scott's direction? And James Caviezel (who starred in Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ"), eerily perfect as the terrorist.
What I think resonated with me most of all is the film's fitting in uncannily well with my recent reflections on the "seminal paradox in the heart of creation." You know, an accepted contradiction that "makes all things possible." For "Déjà Vu" asks you to accept (and effectively forces you, on an emotional level, to accept) that impossible contradictions in replayed versions of the past are...possible. Dramatically possible at any rate, and that, of course, is the art of cinema.
While watching the plot unfold (and for some minutes after watching "Déjà Vu"), I had that most glorious of all movie experiences, a sort of "sacred awe" (to quote Nikos Kazantsakis's character Zorba the Greek) at the beauty of this cinematic creation. Zorba spoke of sacred awe at life, at God's creation, but our awe at a brilliant cinematic creation (or creation in any art) can reflect and echo that grander awe. M. Scott Peck, in his book The Road Less Traveled, drew the same parallel between sexual orgasm and religious ecstasy....
My cinematic awe rested on my initial, mind-boggling thought that the plot is just too ingenious and intricate for anyone to have created it. I've had identical reactions to books—to most of the later novels of John Le Carré, for example, often uttering in disbelief, "How could anyone have written a book this good!" We can, when suitably disposed, be similarly in awe of the grandeur of Nature and the Cosmos, of the fact that there's something rather than nothing.
But a second, relieving thought about "Déjà Vu" was that, well, if you started with two or three simple ideas, it couldn't have been that difficult to work out the plot. I suppose that would be like our everyday attitude toward what we see around us. Just another day, nothing to be in awe of. We ordinarily just aren't disposed to "smell the roses." We have to stop to do it.
The first reaction gives life and movies their thrill, their "sacred awe." The second makes it possible for us to incorporate them into our ordinary, practical existence and get on with it.