Movie Reviews – Premonition

Chris Neefus

Premonition‘s opening weekend gave Sandra Bullock her best opening ever as a leading lady. The movie finished with a middling but respectable $18 million to place third behind the already-blockbuster 300 and the Wild Hogs.

It’s hard to believe that after Bullock’s pitch-perfect performances in Miss Congeniality, Infamous and Crash have powered her to 47 career awards nominations, she is only now hitting her stride at the box office to rake in the crowds. Despite that, Bullock has become something of a critics’ whipping boy, punished for not taking herself seriously enough. It is therefore no surprise that most of the critics were predisposed to dislike this thriller penned by the relative newcomer, Bill Kelly. Only eight percent of critics nationwide bothered to reviewed Premonition favorably. Trashing everything from ostensible plot holes to Bullock’s real-life business decisions, critics missed the boat by labeling this romantic tragedy as a disappointing potboiler without really paying much attention.

The action starts when Linda Hansen (Bullock) wakes up on Thursday morning and learns from the local sheriff that her husband had been tragically killed in a car accident the day before. What she doesn’t know is her week has begun on Thursday and she will be forced to live the rest of it out of order. The “next” day she wakes up on the previous Monday beside to her totally undead hubby (Julian McMahon, nip/tuck). The pair has been ambling through a tepid marriage for several years now and Linda’s time hopping experience provides a wonderfully complex opportunity to explore the issues surrounding his death. Did it really happen in the future? And if so, can Linda save him . . . and should she? Does she even want to?

Monday turns into Saturday, the day of the funeral, and the moment that Linda realizes her life has been impossibly jumbled and that she must race to save her family from tragedy. All the time-jumping is surprisingly coherent thanks to crisp direction, as are the intentionally murky thematic elements introduced at the church.

The prolific and ever-menacing Peter Stormare (Fargo, The Big Lebowski) adds a welcome dose of impending doom as a psychotherapist who doesn’t seem very interested in helping Linda or her family; but Linda’s friend (Nia Long, Big Momma’s House) and mother (Kate Nelligan, Cider House Rules) fail to have a productive influence on the movie and seem only to exist in the narrative as forces conspiring to make Linda look insane, a device that’s become a crutch in thrillers of the past decade.

Premonition‘s beautiful cinematography was dragged down by a couple of shoddy special effects; however, it was filmed on a relatively small $20 million budget (considering the lead actress is one of Hollywood’s highest paid), so a few special effect flops are to be expected. These cinematic shortcomings are redeemed by the movie’s ability to make a strong social comment, something most of thrillers are afraid to do. If you pick up on its subtle but provocative take on faith, Premonition will leave you titillated, offended, or incensed – anything but napping like the obtuse New York Daily News critic was.

If you choose to heed the more prominent critics and stay away from the theaters, at least Netflix it for strong performances out of McMahon and Bullock, whose career won’t likely take a beating after all is said and done. She did her job this weekend, reeling in a 66 percent female audience, an audience she is marketed for, and becoming the top new release this weekend with only her name on the marquee. Although her brand-loyalty has been a fallacy (see Speed 2 and Miss Congeniality 2), the leading lady isn’t nearly as bone headed as she’s portrayed when it comes to choosing an original script. Premonition sometimes stumbles through its foggy plot line, but it manages to deliver in the end: tragedy, gravity and just a dash of hope (both for Linda’s future and Bullock’s career).