This feeble attempt at a mind-bending thriller has a vaguely interesting premise, but its potential is soon lost thanks to dreary execution that blunts the emotional impact, rendering the story as an academic exercise in convoluted plot structure, without offering any compelling reason for viewers to be engaged in the puzzle.
Linda Hanson (Bullock) is confused by a telephone message from her husband Jim (McMahon) who refers to a conversation she does not remember having; moments later, a sheriff knocks on the door to inform her that her husband died on the road to a business trip the day before. Linda’s shock and grief soon turns to confusion when she wakes up the next morning and finds Jim alive and well. Her relief is short-lived when she wakes up the next day and finds Jim’s funeral in progress. Her attempts to explain her situation to her mother (Nelligan) and her best friend (Nia Long) only convince them that she has lost her mind with grief, so they have her committed to the care of a psychiatrist (Stormare). The psychiatrist is surprised to learn that Linda’s husband died on Wednesday, because he says Linda previously showed up at his office on Tuesday, seeking help dealing with the emotional fallout from Jim’s death. The next time Linda wakes up to find Jim alive again, she realizes that her experience of his death is a promotion of things to come, and she soon finds herself living through events leading up to the fateful crash. Her attempts to understand the situation lead her to find that Jim was on the verge of launching an affair with Claire (Valletta), a woman at work, and Linda briefly considers giving up her quest to prevent Jim’s death. After consulting with her local priest, who recounts historical cases of people who foresaw the future, Linda gives Jim another chance. Unfortunately, he insists on attending the business trip even though he gives up the idea of sleeping with Claire. Linda pursues Jim in her car, calling him by phone and trying to get him to avoid his appointment with a big-rig truck…
Despite the title, PREMONITION plays more like a time-travel movie, with Linda jumping back and forth from present to future but not understanding the mechanism at work. This time-shifting quickly undermines the emotional impact of Jim’s death, because we in the audience know he’s not really dead yet and we keep waiting for Linda to figure out what’s happening and do something about it.
Unfortunately, despite available emotional support, Linda keeps mum about what she’s thinking, forcing audiences to follow her without grasping her intentions or state of mind, thus preventing us from fully identifying with her. When Linda finally does confide in others, in the tradition of characters caught in “Twilight Zone” situations, she says only enough to sound crazy. The early scenes even suggest the film is playing a game with the audience, the lack of a clear rhyme or reason to the phenomenon hinting that Linda’s condition may actually be a psychotic break caused by grief.
Eventually, toward the mid-section, the story starts to make sense, when Linda charts out a calendar detailing the timeline of her various experiences in the future and the present. She seems to be alternating between two parallel time streams, a few days apart, and her existence in the “present” is rapidly catching up to the day of Jim’s death. Unfortunately, this brief moment of clarity is quickly abandoned when the film breaks the pattern, having her wake up in the “present” a few days before her previous experience in the “present.” This diminished the feeling of marching inevitably toward the fateful Wednesday, and one is left wondering whether Linda may be stuck in a time loop for the rest of the movie. When the big day finally arrives, it generates more relief than tension, and you won’t need an advanced degree in dramatic irony to guess what’s going to happen: will Linda save her husband, or will her efforts bring about the disaster she is trying to avoid…?
With its time-twisting love story about a woman in love with someone whose death by automobile accident she tries to prevent, PREMONITION feels like an unofficial remake of Bullock’s previous outing THE LAKE HOUSE; that film, however, was not structured like a puzzle; it simply relied on audience suspension of disbelief to cover its romantic storyline.
PREMONITION wants to be something more, a film that really twists the audience into mental knots and then blows their minds. Unfortunately, it winds up being considerably less – rather like a Lifetime TV movie that accidentally escaped onto the big screen, with weepy melodrama and a contrived moral dilemma (let the adulterous husband die, or give him a second chance?) that drowns the thrills in a sickly sea of bathos. The efforts are so contrived and artificial that we never care what’s happening, and trying to piece the puzzle together is barely worth the effort. The emotional cheating is so bad that the supposedly devastating denouement, followed by its upbeat epilogue, completely cancel each other out. PREMONITION succeeds on at least one level: it seeks to make its audience think, and for the duration of its running time, you will find yourself thinking long and hard about how bad it is.
PREMONITION shares a title with a 2004 Japanese film with a vaguely similar premise. In the earlier film, a man receives a premonition (in the form of a headline in a scrap of newspaper) about the death of his child in a car crash (also involving a big rig truck). At the end of the film, the father jumps back in time to relive the event and try to prevent it from happening. The Japanese version of PREMONITION suffers from a weak second act, but it is a far more effective film, which achieves the emotional effects for which the American version strives desperately, and fails.
PREMONITION (2007). Directed by Mennan Yapo. Written by Bill Kelly. Cast: Sandra Bullock, Julian McMahon, Shyann McClure, Courtney Taylor Burness, Nia Long, Marc Macaulay, Kate Nelligan, Irene Ziegler, Peter Stormare