Forgive me for treading lightly through this Premonition review, but the last time I tried to discuss the film in detail, Sony reprimanded me.
The reason I find this so funny is because the out-of-order thriller consciously jumbles its supernatural narrative in an effort to dodge easy explanations. You're going to want to discuss possible theories with those who've seen it, which is exactly what I planned to do while working the Premonition press junket weeks ago.
I took my seat across from the film's co-star, Julian McMahon
, and floated an assumption about his mysterious character -- a supposedly dead suburban spouse who keeps reappearing to his confused wife, played by Sandra Bullock
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"That's a really interesting idea," said McMahon with genuine interest (and no, I can't reveal the idea here). "No one has posited that one to me yet. What I really think is…"
That's when we were cut off. Studio handlers hovering nearby started waving their arms and dancing in place. One stood between McMahon and me as he listened intently to his headset before finally saying, "We don't think he should be answering these questions." The studio flack listened again for half a minute before asking, "Can you rephrase the question so as not to ask Julian anything about his character, or the movie?"
As you can imagine, that's difficult. So here we are, tiptoeing around a juicy beyond-the-grave mystery that hinges on a central character I’ve been told not to discuss.
What can be said? Well, McMahon plays Jim Hanson, a loving husband and father of two who leaves a mysterious phone message for his wife, Linda (Bullock), at the beginning of the film. He's away on a business trip but informs her that he meant what he said in front of their children -- we’ll eventually learn what that means -- and that he can't wait to see his family again. Only he never does. A police officer knocks on Linda's front door and informs her that Jim died in a car crash the day before.
Then things get really confusing. After dealing with funeral homes and grieving family members, Linda gives in to slumber, wakes up the next morning, and finds out Jim's still alive. Or is he? She checks the date and realizes it's two days before his planned trip, so he hasn't perished in a fiery wreck. Did she experience one of those dreams that are so realistic we need a few minutes to acclimate when we wake up? Or was it foreshadowing of things to come?
Before Linda can get her bearings, time shifts again. And again. And then some more. Premonition, penned by Bill Kelly, fluctuates back and forth between the days prior to Jim's crash and the days immediately after. Unfortunately for Linda (and, by extension, for Bullock), she's the only one who is aware of these drastic skips, and the incomplete truths are driving her insane. What is the connection between Jim and the petite blonde woman (Amber Valletta) who showed up at his funeral? When did Dr. Norman Roth (Peter Stormare
) prescribe that lithium for Linda? Is the medication the cause of her illusions? Are they illusions at all?
German director Mennan Yapo
explores alternate forms of psychological horror. His movie has quick and easy jolts lifted from the Asian horror genre, but it rises above expectations when developing more realistic (and vastly more terrifying) setups rooted in possible chills. There's a lengthy scene in an asylum where we begin to question Linda's sanity. These catch-22 scenes, when handled correctly, always scare me, because the more someone tells a psychiatrist they're not crazy, the crazier we think they are.
Needless to say, without Bullock, Premonition would crumble like a piece of Entenmann's coffee cake. Heady and somber, the movie tests our patience at times, but we remain invested because the actress automatically earns our sympathies and respect.
I'm not sure how many will follow Premonition down its eventual philosophic paths -- the film attempts to grasp fluid topics like fate and religious belief as it ponders if we can be punished for things we didn't do yet. And it answers most of its mysteries, even if the resolutions are disappointingly vague. Or maybe I shouldn't have said that. Maybe I've given too much away. Sony, if you're reading this, I didn't mean to...