For example, the effects of film noir may be employed to create a mood of mystery, suspicion and darkness that is at the heart of passion. Film noir basically means ‘black’ film in the sense that the images, music, subject matter and filming style are all coordinated to produce a dark, brooding emotional reaction. Some of these techniques are employed to create a mood of intelligent questioning of the possibilities in the film Deja Vu. Directed by Tony Scott and starring Denzel Washington in the main role of Doug Carlin, the film starts with an explosion aboard a ferry containing celebrating crewmembers of the USS Nimitz and their families during a New Orleans Mardi Gras celebration. Washington plays the part of an ATF agent who skillfully analyzes the scene to discover the source of the bomb. Because of his ability, he is asked to join a special FBI team that is using time warping satellite technology to try to discover the identity of the bomber. The team has been brought in to this investigation because one of the bodies, that of Claire Kuchever, apparently intended to be mistaken for one of the accident victims arrives too early, before the explosion takes place. The emerging time-warp technology is imperfect, allowing them to look backward in time by exactly four and a half days. As the investigation proceeds, some strange anomalies appear, such as finding Detective Carlin's fingerprints all over Kuchever's apartment even though the two didn't know each other before the explosion.
Carlin concludes that what they are seeing is more than just a time window, it is a time tunnel and he travels through it to try to save the woman he's now fallen in love with as well as the more than 500 passengers on the ferry by catching the bomber before the crime occurs. What makes this sci-fi action film so successful is its careful use of film noir techniques to create a specific and intense mood throughout the action. Some of the major characteristics of film noir are a heavy sense of fear, mistrust, bleakness, loss of innocence, despair and paranoia (Dirks). These senses are built into the action of the film as the plot turns out to be a race against time that has already been lost to try to prevent the explosion. The crime has already happened, the people have already been killed leaving plenty of reason to fear for the characters at the same time that there is a heavy sense of distrust in the technology being employed. Carlin distrusts the technology, but as he begins to buy into it, a sense of paranoia begins to build as it becomes clear that the technicians can look back in time to anyplace they want to look, including Kuchever as she takes a shower. This helps to establish her as the innocent victim at the same time that she senses she's being watched, building on the paranoia and finally giving Carlin the clue that he is looking through a time tunnel rather than just a time window. Perhaps because of the convoluted, non-linear storyline, Scott builds the film on the classic moods of film noir which Washington portrays through his acting. According to Dirks, classic film noir was originally associated with the detective story and often ended with tragedy, both of which are present within Deja Vu, including the twist in the storyline that places the tragedy at the beginning of the film. Part of the way film noir creates its mood is through heavy employment of foreboding, flashbacks and often at least one character with no knowledge of the action taking place. These elements are to be