Cinema: We've seen it all before

The aptly-titled Deja Vu offers nothing the cinema-goer hasn't seen a million times before , while The Wizard of Oz, remastered and showing in all its big-screen glory, proves that they don't make ‘em like this anymore. By Declan Burke


Be warned: if you do go to see Déjà Vu (15s), you may find yourself spending inordinate amounts of the movie wondering if it was so titled because its hero, Doug Carlin (Denzel Washington), gets to travel back in time, or because its makers are offering a playfully post-modern title to flag up the fact that even the most reluctant cinema-goer has seen this story many, many times before.

The set-up is promising. Investigating a terrorist bomb that blows up a ferry during Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Carlin, an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, discovers that Claire Kuchever (Paula Patton), one of the victims who washes up on the riverbank, appears to have been killed before the bomb went off. Soon he's plunged into a murky world that blurs the lines between past, present and future, when he discovers that the FBI are utilising experimental technology that allows the past to be relived again. But can the theory be put to practical use to allow Doug to prevent the terrorists from planting the bomb?   

The premise is intriguing, the theories espoused are fascinating, but Déjà Vu, directed by Tony Scott, quickly evolves into a risible tale in which propositions from the world of quantum physics are bent out of shape in order to lend a spurious authenticity to an old-fashioned and – for all its ostensibly bewildering jargon – utterly predictable tale. Washington is as compelling as ever but he's wasted on this material, while the hyperactive editing and Scott's bombastic direction – both designed, presumably, to distract the impressionable from the increasingly ludicrous chain of events masquerading as a narrative – are migraine-inducing.  

Where Doug Carlin gets to jump back and forth through time, Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) remains fixed in time but makes a lateral jump through space when she's whipped up, up and away by a tornado out of a monochrome Kansas and plonked down in the dazzlingly colourful world of Oz. Pursued by the Wicked Witch of the West, whose equally wicked sister Dorothy kills when the tornado deposits her in Oz, Dorothy sets out for the Emerald City, where lives the Great Wizard, in the hope that he can help her to get back home.

Screening at the IFI in all its big-screen glory, The Wizard of Oz (G) is an indisputable movie classic. As fresh and vibrant now as when it first opened in 1939, the film boasts a host of toe-tapping musical numbers, a salutary lesson in self-belief for the younger members of the audience, and something of a Philosophy 101 primer for adults. Garland, despite suffering personal problems and battling various addictions off-stage, never bettered her performance as a fresh-faced but intrepid ingénue, her cohorts of Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), Tin Man (Jack Haley) and Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr) provide hilarious support, while the eye-popping colours and Harold Rosson's cinematography are a joy to behold. When they say they don't make them like that anymore, The Wizard of Oz is the kind of thing they're talking about. Oh, what a world, what a world....

Déjà Vu **

The Wizard of Oz *****