A simple story of cinema’s influence amidst the emotional chaos of the Austin Bombings.

Life imitating art is so much a fixture of cinema consumption that pointing it out is almost as trite as a gaggle of suddenly-malfunctioning cellphones in a horror film. This foregone conclusion does little, however, to dull the sensation felt when images of something horrific on screen immediately proceed traumatic experiences in our lives.

Truth be told, my assumption was that real-world connections to the movies we feature on the podcast Junkfood Cinema would be limited to the unexpected news that our recently-discussed esoteric treasures would be getting a Blu-ray release. Anything more substantial than that seemed the antithesis of the light, fun fare of our gluttonous cult film celebration. But then, there was an explosion.

Let’s rewind.

Last Sunday, my esteemed cohost C. Robert Cargill and I met to record the home stretch of our Denzel Watchingthon, a month-long celebration of our some of our favorite Denzel Washington flicks; name borrowed from one of the many excellent Alamo Drafthouse actor-centric marathons programmed by friend-of-the-show Greg MacLennan. The first of two episodes we recorded centered on 2006’s Deja Vu. The film opens with a domestic terrorist bombing a New Orleans ferry, which serves as the catalyst for a time-bending investigation lead by ATF agent Doug Carlin (Washington).

It was a fun episode, posted below, and when we had finished, I drove home. As I neared my exit, it was hard not to notice the number of police cars rushing past me, sirens wailing. I gave it little thought. I failed to think back to the two incidents earlier this month wherein two Austinites had been killed and others injured when packages delivered to their doorsteps turned out to be homemade explosives.

As it turned out, there had been a third bombing, this time in a neighborhood right behind my own. It was determined by authorities to be connected to the previous two and they were now calling this the work of a serial bomber. The next morning, an emergency alert (confirmed by a followup call to 911) mandated my family to remain in our home until 10 am while this latest crime scene was investigated.

My wife was in tears, understandably afraid. I had to have a conversation with my stepson about avoiding any and all items that didn’t belong to him and to watch where he stepped at all times (the third bomb was set off by tripwire). But for some reason, as concerned as I was, I wasn’t panicking as I feel I should have been.

Why?

Bizarre as it may sound, I think it’s because I had just watched Deja Vu. Many elements of the film are sheer science-fiction to the point of pure fantasy. So no, I was not expecting the Austin Police Department to utilize time travel to solve this case. But Tony Scott is a filmmaker who lends a gravity and lived-in quality to his stories and I felt that the heartbreaking visuals of the ferry explosion that opens Deja Vu made me respect the stakes of what is currently transpiring in Austin (preparing me insomuch as preventing me from taking anything for granted). Further, the way Scott captured the aftermath instilled reasonable confidence that I had seen a glimpse into the diligence that would drive the very real investigation taking place in my world.

On the news, I saw tan ATF-branded windbreakers and imagined, with Agent Carlin as my exemplar, the remnants of the tripwire device that would be scrutinized and the tireless analysis of residue and existing surveillance footage that would be employed. I considered the reports that the Austin bomber had shipped a bomb via FedEx that detonated at their sorting facility. While inescapably fictional, Deja Vu did remind me of how ever-present surveillance cameras are in our lives and probably more so now than in 2006, and I am confident that his usage of a FedEx storefront will, therefore, be his downfall.

Some may argue that I am suffering from a startling disconnect from reality, and there is no small amount of evidence to support this claim. However, I have to credit Deja Vu for at least creating the forensic mindset that allowed me to trust those on the case, to focus my attention on potential dangers around me, and accidentally prepared me to hold myself together when real life bad guys decided to be every bit as nasty as Jim Caviezel.

Update: Since writing this article, the Austin bomber/terrorist was killed in a confrontation with police. The authorities identified him, fittingly, from surveillance images taken from a FedEx facility. That seems…familiar.

Want to hear more reasons for you to give a first look to Deja Vu even if you don’t realize you’ve already seen it? Give a listen to the Junkfood Cinema episode as part of our Denzel Watchingthon!

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