Saturday, June 8, 2013

Premonition (2007)

Director: Mennan Yapo                                  Writer: Bill Kelly
Film Score: Klaus Badelt                               Cinematography: Torsten Lippstock
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Julian McMahon, Kate Nelligan and Peter Stormare

I think this is a very underrated film, and I don’t even like Sandra Bullock all that much. But there is something incredibly haunting and provocative in it, especially the ambiguous ending, that is definitely worth pondering. Premonition begins with Bullock waking up one morning and going about her daily routine, but that afternoon a sheriff comes to her door to tell her that her husband, away on a business trip, has died in a traffic accident the day before. The part demands a lot of emotion, and though Bullock certainly wouldn’t have been my first pick, she does manage to pull off a credible performance. Her mother, Kate Nelligan, comes to stay that night and Bullock must give the bad news to her two little daughters. The day ends on an expectedly somber note.

The next morning, however, she wakes up and comes downstairs to find her mother gone and her husband very much alive, eating breakfast. At first she thinks that what she had experienced before must have been a particularly vivid dream, but when the following morning she wakes up to find him dead again, things start to come unraveled. Soon it’s clear what is happening is that her days are being experienced out of sequence, alternately before his death and after. She has, however, retained all of her memories and eventually must figure out what to do. Bullock makes a chart and learns the pattern and is determined to prevent his death once she realizes that she hasn’t yet gone through the actual day of his death.

Though not a fan of Bullock, I have enjoyed the performances I’ve seen, namely in Speed, The Net, and The Lake House. The supporting actors are also good, especially Nelligan, Amber Valletta and Peter Stormare. What drags the production down is the character of the husband, played by Julian McMahon, whose performance here is rather pedestrian. But perhaps that was the intent of director Mennan Yapo. As such, Bullock becomes the central figure in the story, not their relationship. Another element that is criticized is that within the context of the altered timeline, there seem to be inconsistencies. The only one I really noticed was a basket of dirty clothes that she washes on Thursday, but then shows up in exactly the same place earlier in the week. But I think these things are being read wrong. Regardless of the exact day they show up on things appear to be locked into place, and this actually sets up the ending.

And the ending has also come in for criticism. But again, I think the lack of predictability works for the film, especially in the climax. And though the very end seems trite there’s a philosophical question at work here about the nature of time and space, not to mention the possibility that the whole narrative is could simply be a wish on the part of Bullock whom, upon waking up a final time, understands that her participation in the altered narrative does not presuppose change. And that is, in fact, a way to go on. It’s not a great film, by any stretch, but neither is it the train wreck that some have called it. Honestly, I think if the film had a different actress, even with the exact same script, it might have been much better received. As it is, Premonition is still a satisfying thriller that makes the audience think. And that’s never a bad thing.

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