Deja Vu: New Orleans Jambalaya Recipe

Year Released: 2006
Directed by: Tony Scott
Starring: Denzel Washington, Paula Patton, Val Kilmer, Jim Caviezel
(PG-13, 128 min.)
Genre: Mystery and Suspense, Science Fiction, Action and Adventure

"The past is but the beginning of a beginning, and all that is and has been is but the twilight of the dawn." H. G. Wells

It’s probably worth watching for the car chase alone, not to mention the dreamy love story, and some solid detective work spiced up with a little Sci Fi. In fact, there’s almost enough there to keep you from thinking too much about a plot that ultimately blows away like dust in the wind.

The film opens tragically in a city already too familiar with it as a ferry on the way to New Orleans’ Fat Tuesday blows up. The brief footage of the entourage of sailors bounding on board in their gleaming whites, the quick cuts of smiling faces from six to sixty, and the poignant detail of a teacher counting noses just before the explosion look as real as someone’s video. The fire and carnage launched into the Mississippi’s muddy waters are like that dark dream that has been doing its dance macabre just beneath our national consciousness for the last sixteen years.

Of course, we are immediately comforted by the presence of Federal Agent Doug Carlin (Denzel Washington) a modern day Sherlock Holmes who smells and tastes his way to a logical conclusion in about twenty minutes – it was a planned sabotage and no accident. In fact, his powers are so respected that the FBI decides to bring him in on their top secret surveillance system.

Somehow, the government has the technology to look anywhere and anyplace – even behind doors and walls – at the discreet distance of four days and six hours in the past. They try to finesse it as a compilation of assorted spy satellite images, but the cagey Carlin is not buying the subterfuge, and when the subject on the screen reacts to his red laser light, the jig is up.

The subject, by the way, is the very alive and lovely Claire Kuchever (Paula Patton), whose present day charred body, complete with severed fingers, has washed up down river just slightly before the explosion. Somehow this anomaly is the key to the case, and it is purely in the interests of investigative inquiry that the assorted agents feel compelled to observe the shapely soon to be victim in various Victoria’s Secret moments. While the younger scientific geniuses merely ogle the beauty, Carlin’s dreamy rapture looks a lot like love.

And naturally that is why he volunteers to go through the “wormhole” transporter that has so far not quite lived up to Star Trek tradition, returning dead the various rats and gerbils thrust into its maw. Before that – if the film can play fast with chronology so can I – Agent Carlin has warmed up to his time adventure in a very daring car chase of the suspected terrorist – one in two time zones.

You see, when the culprit gets too far away, the multi-million dollar machine craps out, and Denzel chases his image wearing the portable version. This is all pretty cool until he and the audience simultaneously realize that the real time traffic is not what he is seeing through his special goggles. Not one to be forestalled by such a minor detail, the intrepid Carlin wears the goggles on one eye only for the phantom cars, keeping his other for the real steel chassis, kind of like the trick of wearing only one contact to correct near and far sight simultaneously. 

Whether or not Carlin lives through the chase, not to mention the time transport, I'll leave as a surprise, but unfortunately the film itself starts to run out of oxygen right about here. First of all, why is it only on television’s 24 that the terrorists are the politically incorrect versions of what we know are the most likely candidates, but on the big screen they morph into the only two safe villains in existence – neo Nazis or religious psycho military wannabees? All the carefully crafted allusions to Oklahoma City and not one mention of the Twin Towers?

At least the shunned Jesus (Jim Caviezel), playing a Timothy McVeigh clone, is getting some work, and he does well as the unhinged “patriot.” Unfortunately, though it is a paycheck, the once edgy and elegant Val Kilmer should have turned down his dead end role as FBI Agent Pryzwarra, or at least spent some time in the gym before the shoot.

But what really sets in somewhere out in the parking lot afterward is the lazy indulgence with the time travel. Certain details just don’t jibe, and all the talk about destiny, as well as the contrived question about having done this two or three times already, are merely fast talking fudge factors. I mean, just because the wormhole is less than a week and not centuries, even Sci Fi Lite is supposed to be grounded in, you know, science.

But what the heck, go ahead and suspend your disbelief – for two hours at least

—Kathy Borich

Film-Loving Foodie

Part of the tragedy of Déjà Vu’s opening is the contrast of brutal reality with joyous expectations. Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras in New Orleans - the syncopation of a jazzy trumpet, a full voice rocked with harmony and style, crowds sparkling with iridescent necklaces, and yes, the whiff of spicy delectables found no where else.

So sad that the 543 revelers were not able to taste their dreams, but since it is only a movie, don’t despair enough to lose your appetite. Instead, enjoy a piquant taste of the rebounding city for them.

I suggest an easy skillet jambalaya, just the thing for a cold December night. And it might be the perfect ending for any ham left over from Thanksgiving. (Review originally posted December 2006.)

Laissez le bon temps rouler,

New Orleans Jambalaya


  • 2 cups cooked ham, diced
  • 1 cup green pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 10 oz pkg sliced okra
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup uncooked rice


Combine all ingredients except rice in a large, heavy skillet; bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 10 minutes.

Stir in rice and simmer, tightly covered, for 20 minutes longer, or until rice is tender.

Serves 4.

Recipe Source: