Wednesday, 1 August 2007
Premonition (2007) dir. Mennan Yapo
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Julian McMahon, Kate Nelligan
“Premonition” is a high concept film about a woman who foresees her life one week in advance during a time after her husband has been killed in a car accident. The events are confusing and she questions her own sanity and the reasons for her perplexing premonitions. The film messes about in the Shymlyan genre, and establishes a neat concept, but in the end it’s too clever for its own good and fails to deliver the goods.
Linda and Jim Hanson live a humble family life in the country. Linda cares for their two daughters at home while Jim sells cars at a local dealership. One day, a cop shows up at her door and tells her Jim has died in a car accident. The news is obviously shocking to Linda and she spends the rest of day in a haze. The next morning she wakes to find Jim alive and everyone around her is going about their day as if nothing is wrong. The day after that Jim is dead again. Just as Linda is on the brink of going crazy she notices the pattern, that every other day moves her forward by a week. Therefore she can predict what will happen to Jim before it actually happens in real time. Linda is forced to make life-altering decisions about her old life and her potential new life without Jim.
The film is two thirds good and one third failure. It establishes the concept which is intriguing and thought-provoking but then fails to live up to the buildup. In the final act it slowly deflates like a lifeless balloon falling to the ground and landing with a faint whimper.
The film wants to be scary and moody like “The Sixth Sense”, but it also wants to be intelligent and time-shifting like “Memento”. The result is a much lesser film than either. Director Yabo and writer Bill Kelly use the first half of the film to set up the premise. Yabo uses slow creepy movements, stock and trade autumn leaves and naked branches of the country to establish the isolated environment. Yabo drops several scary stings on us to keep us on the ‘edge of our seats’. There’s a dead bloody crow lying on the ground near her clothesline, there’s a series of unexplained horrific scars on her daughter’s face, there’s a creepy doctor who shows up with a devious agenda. The problem is in the third act these mysteries prove to be red herrings which have nothing to do with the story. It’s a major let down.
As well the film never really explains why Linda is experiencing these premonitions. Divine intervention is thrown in at the end as an easy explanation, but it doesn’t satisfy the ‘existential’ questions of why her and not someone else. The film wants us to ask the question, what would you do differently in life if you could see the future? Well, Linda doesn’t do much, or at least not enough to make an interesting film. “Premonition” needed to push the consequences of her choice further and raising her stakes. As well Yabo and Kelly needed to connect the scary elements in the film to her ultimate decision at the end. A lost opportunity is the doctor character played by Peter Stormare. Stormare is at his creepiest in a scene where he takes Linda away to his clinic, but the disconnect with the throughline of the film is too wide.
Sandra Bullock is surprisingly good as Linda though. The scene where she has to tell her kids that their father has died is a great performance. It’s totally believable. In fact, Bullock’s reactions to the events in the film are, for the most part, plausible and truthful.
Despite these criticisms it’s an interesting American introduction to director Mennan Yabo, whose first film was an award-winning German thriller, “Lautlos”, which I haven’t seen, but makes me wonder what in that film gave Bullock and the producers confidence to make “Premonition”. In any case, “Premonition” is competent but won’t set any fires and is ultimately not a good coming out party for Yabo.
Buy it here: Premonition (Widescreen Edition)