Premonition (United States, 2007)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

Time travel movies meddle with paradoxes and causality - these things lie at the core of their essential fascination. The difference between a good time travel movie and a bad one often rests with one simple quality: Having established a set of "rules" by which the paradoxes are governed, does the film remain constrained by them or does it mutate them to fit the circumstances? Unfortunately, Premonition is plagued by inconsistencies. There's some interesting material in the film about pre-destination and questions about whether it's possible to change fate, but the movie is less interested in the philosophical implications of this than it is in developing a mystery and seeding red herrings.

Linda Hanson (Sandra Bullock) is going about her daily chores when a police officer arrives at her door to inform her that her husband, Jim (Julian McMahon), has been killed in a car accident. Linda is devastated and must inform her young daughters, Megan (Shyann McClure) and Bridgett (Courtney Taylor Burness). Her mother (Kate Nelligan) arrives to help out. By nightfall, Linda is exhausted and, grief-stricken, she curls up on the couch and falls asleep. She awakens the next morning to discover that not only is Jim alive but the calendar has been peeled back from Thursday to Monday. Gradually, as the days and nights pass, Linda discovers that she is no longer living life in a linear fashion. Instead of her days progressing sequentially from Sunday to Saturday, they are jumbled up, with the fulcrum being the day of Jim's death. Knowing what happens, can she stop the accident? Should she stop it?

A weakness of the film can be traced to Linda's passivity. Instead of being proactive, she is reactive and this robs the script of possibilities. Linda does not rage against fate. For the most part, she accepts it, which limits the film's dramatic tension. A classic victim, Linda isn't always interesting and, although Bullock's acting is fine, there are times when the character's lack of strength limits the movie's ability to engross. The film has its high points and the ending evidences potency (although the epilogue is not only ineffective but raises more questions than it answers).

Another mistake on the part of the screenplay is to offer a metaphysical explanation of sorts for Linda's unusual journey. Premonition provides a scene between the lead character and a priest in which we are granted insight into the possible supernatural device that has disrupted Linda's chronology. It sounds a little silly and reminds us why movies like Groundhog Day prefer to leave the method of time travel to the imagination. Typically, the more we learn about such mechanics, the harder they are to digest. (There are exceptions - such as in the novel The Time Traveler's Wife - but this isn't one of them.)

One wonders whether Bullock is trying to become the modern queen of time travel stories. This is her second consecutive film to dabble with non-linear movement through the fourth dimension. Her previous effort, The Lake House, was a romance. This is more of a drama with elements of a thriller and mystery built in. It may be overstating matters to suggest that Premonition keeps the viewer guessing, but it is constructed with sufficient efficiency that most viewers will stay with it to the end. Whether one forgives the film its lapses of consistency and logic is another matter.

The film's tone and approach, presided over by German director Mennan Yapo (making his English language feature debut) from a screenplay by Bill Kelly (Blast from the Past), lies somewhere in the twilight between art house and multiplex fare, which may make it a hard sell to either audience. The star and the more overwrought aspects of the plot are mainstream but the philosophical implications will not appeal to those who prefer easily digestible cinematic portions. It's also true that the more deeply one considers the movie's themes and structure, the less sense it makes. Instead of the paradoxes transforming into delicious puzzles, they become jigsaws where the pieces don't necessarily fit. So, although aspects of Premonition tantalize, other elements frustrate, and that makes for an uneasy final result.

Premonition (United States, 2007)

Run Time: 1:40
U.S. Release Date: 2007-03-16
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Profanity, Violence)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1