Prayer Focus
Click here to watch THE HOPE on-line!
Movie Review

Déjà Vu

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and terror, disturbing images and some sensuality

Reviewed by: Michael Karounos

Add to your list?
View your list
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Suspense, Sci-Fi, Thriller, Action, Adventure, Crime, Drama, Romance
2 hr. 8 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
November 22, 2006 (wide)
Copyright, Buena Vista Pictures
Copyright, Buena Vista Pictures
Copyright, Buena Vista Pictures
Copyright, Buena Vista Pictures
Copyright, Buena Vista Pictures
Copyright, Buena Vista Pictures
Copyright, Buena Vista Pictures
Copyright, Buena Vista Pictures
Copyright, Buena Vista Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Buena Vista Pictures
Featuring: Denzel Washington, Val Kilmer, Paula Patton, Bruce Greenwood, Adam Goldberg
Director: Tony Scott
Producer: Mike Stenson, Chad Oman, Terry Rossio
Distributor: Buena Vista Pictures

“If you thought it was just a trick of the mind, prepare yourself for the truth.”

“Déjà vu” is about ATF agent Doug Carlin’s (Denzel Washington) quest through time to save the beautiful and dead Claire Kuchever (Paula Patton) from being murdered. The person who does the murdering is terrorist Carroll Oerstadt (James Caviezel) who blows up a ferry in New Orleans harbor containing 543 American servicemen and their families, all of whom, remarkably, are hugging and smiling in slow motion up until the moment of their deaths.

In order to catch the terrorist, Agent Carlin must join forces with the FBI and use a machine called “Snow White,” which is described as the same spying technology the army uses in Iraq and which, Shanti informs him, “can access any surveillance technology available to any government agency.” The whole sequence reeks of Patriot Act dementia, which, together with the repeated reference to Oklahoma City, government neglect of New Orleans, and the war in Iraq, combine to overwhelm the dramatic premise and makes it obvious that the movie is trying hard to disguise its political attacks under cover of an action movie.

This deceit works about as successfully as it did in movies like “Timeline” (2003), and “The Jacket” (2005) which are also supposedly about time travel, but whose underlying points are that America is responsible for the spread of weapons of mass destruction (“Timeline”), and that returning American soldiers have been psychologically damaged by their supposed crimes in Iraq (“The Jacket”). Similarly, the latest “Mission Impossible” demonstrates that the spread of weapons of mass destruction is not through Pakistan and North Korea, as is well-documented, but is actually conducted by rogue elements in the American government working through Crusader elements in the Vatican.

Such plots have nothing in common with the daily news and show Hollywood’s obsession to project guilt on the United States for actions committed by others. The movie’s perfect example of this is the terrorist who uses a vehicular IED directed against American troops. This sort of thing is in the news everyday. But for Hollywood, reality cannot interfere with ideology. Thus, the terrorist can never be a Muslim who is blowing up American troops and innocent (9/11 or Iraqi) civilians, because that would be politically awkward. Instead, the terrorist must be white because the terrorist who set off the Oklahoma City bombing was white.

Additionally, the terrorist has to be someone who dresses in military casual, tried to join the army, and prominently displays a “SUPPORT THE TROOPS” sticker on his desk drawer. As an added detail, his last name, “Oerstadt,” must suggest a Dutch Afrikaaner lineage that would support the implicit premise of apartheid racism. Finally, he must be called a “patriot” several times so that we get the point. The rule of moviemaking is three: repeat a theme, an image, an idea three times in three different contexts to get the message across. The logic of such a villain in such a time as ours is inescapable from a certain political perspective. Freud called it projection.

As concerns the much-criticized logic of the time travel premise, I can think of no better way to explain it than to mention that co-writer Bill Masilii’s two previous screenplay credits are for episodes of “Courage the Cowardly Dog” and “The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss.” The movie could have been titled “The Wubbulous Wormhole” and have made just as much sense. Clearly, the point of the movie is not so much to explain the plausibility of time travel, as it is to indirectly implicate and punish the American military for fostering a climate of false patriotism that gives birth to monsters like Carroll Oerstadt.

The movie suffers from a number of manipulative tricks, like the repeated use of slow motion mentioned above. There is the additional heavy-handed use of cue music to suggest tragedy or a nostalgic moment. There are also too many melodramatic speeches in which Doug Carlin self-righteously mocks his conspicuously white counterparts or, alternatively, explodes in anger at them.

In fact, the most déjà vu moment the movie elicits is the repeated sense of race-pandering that a number of Denzel Washington’s recent movies express. The black characters are all noble, intelligent, and principled, while the white characters are either fat, cynical, or voyeurs. This same disturbing characteristic is evident in Washington’s previous movies such as “The Manchurian Candidate” (2004) and “Inside Man” (2006). In this movie, the viewer is treated to footage of the devastated 9th ward of New Orleans (the black ward) as a radio broadcasts commentary about the poor government response. The white time managers look on a naked black woman with undisguised lust, while the black man and black woman scold them. The white time manager is called a “traditionalist” while the black time manager is called a “radical” and so on.

Additionally, excepting the Jewish character played by Adam Goldberg, there are three black characters who either pray to God or talk about God (though not about Jesus). As a Christian, I would ordinarily be grateful for such a positive portrayal of putative Christians, but this racial coding of Christians as only black smacks of calculated hypocrisy and strikes the viewer as being patched on for political purposes, to appeal to conservative black viewers, and to show them that they and Hollywood have a common enemy in the government and white patriots.

The racial coding even descends into the lower levels of humor when the movie situates the bombing on Fat Tuesday and then portrays, within a matter of minutes, no fewer than four fat white investigators. Just so we don’t miss the point, the last one is identified as an Agent Hendrix who we are forewarned is showing “the crack in his _ _ _.” The audience is then shown a close-up of the poor actor’s hairy behind to elicit a cheap laugh which director Tony Scott had to struggle mightily to insinuate into the plot. Although that was supposed to be a humorous moment in the movie, it is another of those disturbing racial “gotcha” moments that seems to be directed at a black audience. Throughout the sequence, the clear message is that stupid, fat white men are incompetent, don’t know where the coffee maker is, eat too much, and are disgusting, in approximately that order.

Ultimately, the movie leaves the viewer with the message that: 1) the terrorists in our world are white “patriots”; 2) the government is spying on everyone; and 3) black people are being neglected by a government that is (choose one or all) lazy, incompetent, or criminally insensitive. What Déjà vu is not about, is time travel. As in “Timeline” and “The Jacket,” time travel is just a premise to make a political point.

For Denzel Washington fans who don’t mind the political subterfuge, the movie may be worth seeing. Aside from one scene of brief nudity and Agent Hendrix’s rear end, there are no objectionable elements besides the political ones. Conversely, if you happen to think that white American “patriots” are indeed the source of terrorism and, like Kanye West, believe that Bush and Company disdain black people, then this movie is for you.

Lastly, Christian viewers will nonetheless get a fleeting gratification from the brief discussion of fate, God’s will, and Agent Carlin’s statement to the effect that “Satan reasons like a man, but God reasons for eternity.” Had the movie treated the idea of time travel as a metaphysical enigma, it would have been an interesting exercise in the tension between faith and science. Unfortunately, Tony Scott and the writers tried to squeeze too much into the script and confused the movie’s focus. Perhaps it is fitting that one of the signature images the movie leaves in viewer’s minds is Agent Hendrix’s rear end.

Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: Minor

Viewer Comments
Comments below:
Positive—I thought “Deja Vu” was a great film. Aside from being far-out and unrealistic, I believe it was an extremely entertaining movie with only small amounts of immorality. …Although there was a brief moment of nudity, I believe the movie was clean for a Hollywood film. Even being white, I saw no racial slants in the movie…

I am a conservative, and while there were a little political slants, I was not offended by them to such a degree as Mr. Karounos. I think that we need to judge films, TV, music, magazines, etc, strictly on a moral basis from a Christian, biblical perspective. …I strongly disagree with Mr. Karounos' statements…
My Ratings: Average / 4½
—Michael Claiborn, age 28
Positive—…“Deja Vu” was entertaining while not offensive to my faith. Yes, it was unrealistic, but what “Sci-Fi” movie is not?…
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4
—John Brooks, age 42
Positive—…I thought the film was excellent (and I’m not even an 'action/suspense' fan). I go to a Christian college and a group of friends went out to see it, and none of those issues crossed our minds—the only things we objected to were the stupid shower scene, the “crack” joke, and some of the scenes had a lot of zooming in and out and flashing lights, and that gave me a bit of a headache. I averted my eyes a lot, because I don’t like violence, too. If you’re not used to violence, I’d suggest going with a friend who can tell you when not to look, and just look away during the shower scene and you’ll be fine.

Otherwise, this movie opened up so much discussion about the sovereignty of God—that’s ALL we were talking about afterwards, and this movie would be a great to take unbelieving friends to and talk over coffee afterwards. It’s definitely a movie that makes you think and has you going “OH!” and “I get it now!” pleasantly through the whole movie.

I don’t see race being as big or negative an issue as the reviewer made it to be. Being black myself, seeing black characters who weren’t acting violently, ignorantly, or vulgarly like in a lot of movies was a *nice* change of pace in a mainstream movie. Other white characters, such as the main scientist, were shown as intelligent and he had a few good lines of his own. I enjoyed it—I wouldn’t let the official review steer you away from this film.
My Ratings: Average / 4½
—Ashley, age 19
Positive—I thought this movie was great! I went to go see it with my brother and a friend (both 18) and while the part with the woman who is burned and cut was a little gut-churning, the rest of the movie was fantastic and well-written. It keeps you on the edge of your seat and you aren’t bored for a minute. The shower scene yes, was long and TOTALLY inappropriate, but why all the fuss? You don’t like it? Then cover your eyes and cut it out if you buy the movie when it comes out. People make such a fuss over the littlest things these days. And the race thing… for crying out loud, the movie was fine in that regard. There was nothing like that of the sort in the movie. It was a good, far-fetched-good-vs.-evil type of movie and is great for the teenage audience who like lots of action and suspense!
My Ratings: Good / 5
—Sarah, age 19
Positive—First of all, this is a wonderful action/thriller type movie to go see. Hollywood can’t seem to make a lot of these anymore that are clean enough, plus having a solid storyline, etc. Great videography and professionally done film! The action does not stop, and this movie makes you think I will strongly disagree with one of the previous commentators (Doug Coleman) on the fact that there is “no nudity in the film” etc.—yes, there is Doug. There is a shower scene that shows the woman, silhouetted somewhat, yes, but still visible enough to make out too much detail. It does not come up on you suddenly; you will know it is about to happen by the sequences leading up to it, so just beware. Plus, there are multiple shots of the same woman as she is dressing, or walking around in her lingerie, if that bothers anyone. Unfortunately, our society as a whole has become used to this kind of stuff everywhere…

There is hardly any profanity at all; maybe 2-3 uses. Extremely clean language-wise; especially compared to Denzel’s last movie “Hit Man,” which had an major overload of extreme profanity. I give this movie a 7½-8.0 on a scale of 1 to 10. A good video overall.
My Ratings: Average / 4½
—Matt Sweeney, age 34
Positive—…I felt the film was extremely entertaining although (at times) far fetched. The story was interesting and does deal with the concept of time travel—only with a bit of a twist. The film maker’s avoidance of nudity (gratuitous or otherwise) was appreciated. The theme that your sins will find you out was also appreciated. I am a fan of Denzel Washington and felt he did an admirable job of (once again) making a character come to life. The other actors did a super job as well. Go see the movie or rent the DVD. I feel it is more appropriate for personal entertainment—you wouldn’t want to share it with your House Church or Super Conservative anti-Political Correctness Group.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4½
—Anthony House, age 49
Positive—…I am a white, educated, Christian Conservative, but was shocked by Michael Karounos' assessments, especially in regard to his racial assertions. My husband and I took our four children, ranging in ages 12 to 21 years of old, to this movie last night. We all thoroughly enjoyed “Déjà Vu',” and later had some very interesting discussions. Never did we even consider the issues that Mr. Karounos featured in his review. Instead, we talked about man’s understanding of time in light of eternity considering C.S. Lewis' description of time as one line on the sheet of eternity, how God is sovereign, and yet we are promised that the “prayer of a righteous man availeth much,” realizing that God already knows what is going to happen and yet he gives us free will, and that 'Jesus was the lamb slain before the foundation of the Earth'. I cannot remember being offended by gratuitous sex, violence or offensive language. My family believes God’s word to be the inherent word of Almighty God; and although perhaps there were some political messages in this movie, I never felt defensive of my faith or the truth of God’s word. What Mr. Karounos pronounces as “clearly” was not clear at all to me, my husband or our four very intelligent children. His statement about all black characters and all white characters is just not true. Even Paula Patton is of a mixed heritage, and her best friend in the movie is obviously white since she is viewed praying with her friend’s daughter, a very white, blonde little girl. There are other such examples that completely refute Karounos' report. Overall, I would highly recommend this movie as very entertaining with little objectionable material. Additionally, we discovered this movie to be a vehicle for great family discussion.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4½
—Roxanne Suggs, age 45
Response from Reviewer—Mrs. Suggs comments are interesting, but in fact have nothing to do with the movie. C.S. Lewis is never cited; the Bible scripture she cites is never quoted; Jesus is never prayed to. What Mrs. Suggs did is interpret the movie in terms of her own worldview, which is Christian. However, the movie is not a Christian movie, in spite of the fact that several characters reference “God” (though never Jesus, except as an exclamation).

Such an analogical interpretation gives Christian viewers a point of reference, but as a method it should never be confused for analysis. Every point in the review is based on the dialogue, images, or characterization within the movie. It is understandable that different viewers may disagree about an interpretation, but it is impossible to refute the references since they come from the movie and were not made up.

Viewers must decide for themselves, but they should do so on the basis of the internal evidence and be careful not to project their own faith onto a secular canvas. Christians often make the mistake of thinking that a theme, such as redemption, for instance, makes a movie “Christian.” It does not. Redemption is not an exclusively Christian theme.

Lastly, every film is governed first and foremost by its market appeal. Films starring Adam Sandler or Julia Roberts or Denzel Washington appeal to distinctively different demographics. It is only natural that a film starring an African-American will emphasize material that appeals to an African-American audience, like the references to Katrina and the devastation of the 9th Ward. Spike Lee films, for example, target African-American audiences, while Oliver Stone films target left-leaning audiences. To not know this is to be naive about how Hollywood operates.
My Ratings: Average / 3
Michael Karounos
Positive—…I consider myself a black conservative Christian, but politics aside, the movie was well thought-out, well acted and directed. My wife and I (along with most black people) are very fond and proud of (most of) the work of Denzel Washington. Remember this is NOT a Christian movie. It’s also not a deeply moving or soul stirring movie as well, it’s just a drama/action flick built on sketchy science fiction themes. I really don’t know why the race of the terrorist should matter, he was just evil. If there was a political agenda behind the movie it was so weak it slipped my attention. I thought for a long time about the movie and still didn’t see it and after reading the review I still couldn’t see what political agenda they were trying to push. This movie is more like “Paycheck,” but with better actors and a better script, but nothing really memorable. Was it worth the price of admission, I guess, but it had no overt political agenda. In this movie the main character just happens to be black, so the setting of the Katrina aftermath etc is woven in not to cause riots but to make it more appealing for a black audience (I guess). There were some disturbing images, especially in the morgue scene when they went over the corpse, so I wouldn’t allow a preteen to see this movie.

Blacks and Whites do have different cultural world views, but this movie doesn’t pit one against the other to find it’s ground. Remember the main character is not portrayed as a Christian, but he wasn’t anti-white either, this isn’t a Spike Lee movie (I generally have a strong dislike for Spike Lee’s political agendas). Don’t be afraid to let your older teenagers see this movie, trust me they won’t turn into raging liberals and hate white people, the movie isn’t that deep.
My Ratings: Average / 4
—Vesey Wilborn, age 39
Positive—I actually thought the film was very good. The concept of time travel was a far reaching, but I think it added to the intrigue. I was probably more offended by the review. I did not note any of the racial overtones that were suggested by the reviewer, and they certainly were not the focus and point of the movie. As a believer, the movie provided a platform for wonderful dialogue about the sovereignity of God and the concepts of predetermination, destiny and purpose. I loved it! There was brief nudity and very little profanity. In considering the choices we have for movies that do not offend our faith, I would say it’s a good choice. Enjoy it!
My Ratings: Better than Average / 3½
—Loann, age 36
Neutral—I’m a picky and conservative movie-goer. Yet, I would basically give this film a thumbs up; good action, mind-bending plot (though far-fetched)… good stuff overall. HOWEVER, the shower scene was too explicit and too long. The gentlemen I was with averted their eyes for it’s entirety (they missed nothing of importance), and the rest of the movie was great.

I also have no idea what the reviewer is talking about re: attacks on the US and military. I would consider myself aware of those issues and under-handed attacks… but either the plot was too engrossing or the attacks were so veiled that they were only hinted at… but either way I didn’t even notice and thinking back cannot really recall anything of that nature. I recommend this movie hesitantly—mostly to females who enjoy action and don’t mind a little sci-fi… and I’d recommend that any male going, look away for that scene of blatant voyeurism.
My Ratings: Average / 4½
—Tammy, age 26
Neutral—There was an offensive scene where a voluptuous woman was shown entirely naked in the shower. Her nakedness was somewhat dimmed by the fog on the glass shower, but her upper torso was clearly seen. When I left the movie, that offensive scene was not on my mind at all. In fact, I had forgotten about it until recently while reading another review. When I left the theater I was thinking about space travel and time. I have a big imagination, and this movie fed it well. It is truly a suspenseful thriller. I think the audience should certainly be warned of the naked scene and another where the same woman is shown in a slinky towel. These are not only offensive, but degrading to women and particularly women of color who, in Hollywood, are more often than not shown in a degrading and sexual way with no real depth of character or heart, except where it concerns that of an abused and scared “Drama-Queen.” There are really no other roles women of color get in Hollywood. At any rate, if I could physically see Christ with me in the theater, I might have still watched this movie. Surely our bodies are holy and beautiful to our Maker. I am also a woman and have an upper torso of my own, so seeing another’s was not a big deal to me. I highly did not appreciate my husband seeing those scenes, however. If this movie surpasses your limits, it is understandable, and you may wish to wait for it to come out on video and rent it from your local Christian rental place, where all nude and sex scenes are edited out. That is the best option for movies with nudity now that I think about it.
My Ratings: Offensive / 3½
—Ariana Roscoe, age 23
Neutral—I saw the film on Thanksgiving Day, it didn’t really appeal to me, but I went with the family, so what can you do? Anyway, the film was fine, a little absurd at points, but moderately entertaining. I felt it started with some momentum, but that seemed to dissolve once James Caviezel's character was caught and the mystery element of the film was lost. The only real reason that I wanted to comment on the film was that I was very offended by Mr. Karounos' review. Although I am less enthusiastic about “Deja Vu” as a film than Ms. Suggs, I thought she had an excellent response to the review, and I agree wholeheartedly with her assertions. First of all, there is no gratuitous nudity, and you never see a woman’s breasts (as the first commenter claimed.) Sorry, that just is not in the film. As to Karounos' review, it might be one of the most misguided reviews I have ever read. I wonder why Karounos didn’t mention the fact that Caviezel is not only a strong Christian, but also a Conservative Christian, and his character represented the villain of the film; one would think that he might catch on to this overt leftist agenda. I would refute Karounos' other points, but I honestly don’t know where to begin. …
My Ratings: Better than Average / 2½
—Doug Coleman, age 24
Neutral—It was an interesting movie that made one think. There really wasn’t anything biblical about it, except the main actor’s dedication to save life.
My Ratings: Average / 4½
—Wil Reed, age 37
Neutral—It was a good movie overall, the acting was well done, and the story line was okay, a little confusing, or so I thought. There is some violence, though I don’t recall much foul language. There was a nude scene of a woman (of course) which showed her chest and backside, which was un-called for. I give it an average rating.
My Ratings: Average / 3½
—Kriss, age 26
Negative—My husband and I went to see “Deja Vu” because it was PG-13, and it didn’t seem to be offensive. The moviemaking quality was good… a lot of action sequences not intended for children, with little language. The problem I had (and should be a problem for any other Christian) is the use of nudity.

There is a shower voyeurism scene where it completely shows a woman’s breasts and behind. To say the least, I was very upset. If I had known that would be in the movie, I wouldn’t have seen it. Other than that, it was a great movie. Why does Hollywood always have to throw that junk in a good movie?
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive / 3
—Myndi Orr, age 27
Negative—…there *IS* a shower scene where the woman’s behind and a full shot of her breasts are on screen for more than a quick glimpse. I was thoroughly offended at this scene that had no purpose other than to maybe excite some teenage boys watching it. None of the reviews I had read even MENTIONED nudity or I would not have gone to see it. The rest of the film was good and as a caucasian woman I saw no “race” issues or anything of the sort. It’s a shame that most movies have sex and nudity thrown in. They must not feel the movie itself will draw enough viewers. Tsk Tsk!
My Ratings: Offensive / 3½
—Rhonda Whetten, age 33
Negative—This movie had potential, but the cues were there very early. The political message was offensive. Imaginary white patriots are the real danger to our world, not those who perpetrate attacks like those in the movie on a regular basis. This is yet more offensive, white-hating, conservative-hating, police-hating propaganda from Hollywood. At least it did not overtly attack religion.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Ryan Larson, age 42 (USA)
Comments from young people
Positive—I have seen this move five times. …I originally didn’t want to see it because action movies aren’t exactly my cup of tea. (I don’t like blood… or guns.) I was fascinated with this movie the first time and the last time I saw it. With my five views I’ve noticed things I didn’t notice before. The only things I didn’t like/wasn’t comfortable with were:
1.) The shooting/explosives. But I guess that was all a part of a movie like this.
2.) The few swear words. (But, I hear more at school.)
3.) The bra scene when they are first in Claire’s house. I wouldn’t feel comfortable watching this part with any of my guy friends. The supposed “nude” scenes were not at all visible. No, you could not see her bare breasts or her bum. After seeing this as many times as I have I think I would know. However, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t uncomfortable with the comments that the men were making.
4.) The drug reference- 'This was a bad week for me to stop snorting hash.'

Here is a longer list of things that I did like:
1.) I loved the weird car scene where Doug was using the device to track the man so they didn’t go out of range.
2.) I loved it how Claire prayed and how she didn’t have any sinful behavior .Therefore, I assumed that she was a christian.
3.) I loved the suspense, the feeling of wondering what was going to happen.
4.) I loved it how everything came together—like when the agent asked Doug if he completely forgot how to investigate a crime scene and said that his fingerprints were found everywhere. You find out later that it was because he was with her in her house.
5.) I love it that all those human lives were spared because of the invention and because of Doug.
6.) I loved the feeling at the end when Claire thinks Doug is dead but he is really alive. The other him anyway. It is really an amazing feeling that brings me to tears.

The bottom line is, I will buy this movie and I will watch it over and over. When a movie is bad I will feel convicted to not watch it anymore and so far I have felt good at every ending. …
My Ratings: Excellent! / 5
—Noelle Curran, age 17