Deja Vu (2006), Premonition (2007)


Here are two movies to miss, Deja Vu and Premonition.

During my recuperation from a recent surgery, I’ve discovered you can read only so much before you desperately try movies on DTV and Netflix even though you just know, as you click on the channel: You’ll Be Sorry!

Both of these movies turn on Wells’s time travel idea. In Deja Vu, an ATF agent (Denzil Washington) travels back in time to save a woman from murder and falls in love with her. (I think they should remake Night of the Living Dead with, this time, the zombies being all the half-dead scriptwriters in Hollywood history who visit these awful story lines on us generation after generation.) There’s a top secret alpha-version time-travel device–a modern facsimile of Frankenstein’s Lab with all kinds of hardware, blinking lights and sounds–in which Denzil takes a chance as the test pilot on its maiden flight. Unfortunately, it works and he gets back in Time soon enough to be like the cavalry in the final scenes in all those Apache westerns. Sadly, this means the story can continue and this movie was distributed.

Well, anyway, some questions arise in your idling, self-disgusted mind: For example, What about our modern sophisticated outlook on time travel? Isn’t it true that Chaos Theory might mean that any interference in Process A (here the past) might well affect the outcome of Process B (the present) and Process C (the future)? (Yes, there’s a continuum here, so maybe this partitioning of time is arbitrary and metaphorical. [See, when you’re recuperating, you think about stuff like this.]) Or suppose you yourself someday find your way back a few decades into the past in a later version of Google and, in a terrible accident, spook the horses drawing a carriage carrying the grandparents of you and your wife and they drive off a cliff and are killed? Boy, a problem, huh? Well, in Deja Vu some guy in (I think I recall) a white coat and big glasses just pronounces that such stuff won’t happen. (What a load off my mind that was!) Anyway, the only thing to do after seeing Deja Vu is to see if you can find a copy of Young Frankenstein and regain some equilbrium.

Concerning Premonition, the first two words to utter are “Sandra Bullock.” (Why, oh why, do I ignore huge warning signs?) Yes, the Angry One is back. She’s as thoroughly unlikable as ever. Her expression in benign moments in the film is of someone who has just sat on a tack. She’s of the Al Pacino School of Acting: when in doubt, become hysterical.

The next word to think about here is “confused.” I looked up “premonition” and it has to do with anxiety about a future event. But in this film, you’d swear that Bullock’s husband is already dead. (It could have ended there–a short short of a film–and I’d have been sympathetic.) The action seems to switch back and forth from a fait accompli to the here and now. Sometimes, hubby is there and sometimes he’s in a casket at a funeral. And the scenes are measured, realistic, long and fulsome. Not like hazy, jumpy recollections. Enough to confuse you. There are some Gothic riffs–probably ordered by the studio execs when they saw the original take–because hubby’s been decapitated in an awful car accident and his head rolls out of the back of the hearse and onto the pavement in one of the (apparent flashback) scenes. The plot is very complicated, but you don’t really care in the sense that almost from the start of this thing you’ve lost all editorial urges. I have the strong impression the plot got so because the scriptwriters kept getting themselves into blind alleys. But finally, in a late scene that the previous action in the film has absolutely no role in leading up to, an old Catholic priest speaks to Sandra in a shadowy church about the 17th century and premonitions. At that moment, you realize that here the time travel is into the future; or, well, you begin to suspect that it is. So the thing ends with Bullock chasing her husband in a car chase on a remote highway–see, his fatal accident hasn’t yet happened (though where exactly “yet” is in Time you are not yet sure about)–and finally getting him to pull over. He’s up ahead of her in his car and she, via cell phone, I think I recall, tells him to make a U-Turn and come back to her where she’s pulled off the highway. (I know, why didn’t he pull off the road and she drive a few feet further and pull in behind him and get out of her car and get in his and they talk? Well, hey, he’s got to end up dead, so what’s a poor screenwriter to do?)  Well, when hubby is making a U-Turn, his car stalls in the middle of the highway. Then the biggest big rig you ever saw thunders into the picture and….

Well, Dickens used a lot of coincidence, didn’t he?

Sandra’s pregnant, though, and so: “When you walk through a storm, keep your head held high.”

Well, before this psychological breakdown of mine, I was reading a book by the philosopher, Palle Yourgrau, called A World Without Time. It’s in significant part about time travel. It’s about Godel and Einstein and their close, exclusionary friendship during their years together at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. (For the recuperating, CNN is only good for a while.) Actually, it’s about Godel’s seemingly promising (if not downright successful) work to show that there really is no such thing objectively as Time. Godel, in a very complex reasoning, thinks that given the relativity of “time” in Einstein’s physics, and the dubious “ontology” of the intuitive Now we all think we experience, there actually can’t really be Time or time. I guess he’s saying to Einstein that there’s not “space-time” but just “space.” (For a person like me who is terrible at mathematics, this is a fairly accessible book; I recommend it as a moron’s guide to what seems an important and stimulating, if heretofore somewhat neglected, development in Logic and in Philosophy.) Anyway, to make a long story short, Godel’s attempt to show time as an ideality turns in major part on his on-paper construction of another kind of universe than ours, but one consistent with Einstein’s physics, in which, given the right kind of spaceship, you can return to the Past (which ends up meaning to him that there is ergo no Past). Using an “ontological” argument, Godel would have it that if there is a conceivable, plausible universe in which there can be “time travel,” that’s proof enough that there’s not really Time/time in our universe either: one exception proves the universal rule. (It’s complicated as an argument but not as nutty as it may appear in my amateurish description here.) Anyway, it seems that “the right spaceship” is probably beyond making. You won’t be able to change the outcome of the 2000 presidential election.

Hollywood should consider this book. I think they’d find a way to make “the right spaceship.” Imagine Al Pacino as Kurt Godel. Don’t kid yourself, it could happen.

Einstein and Godel on a walk: