Judge Ryan Keefer had a dream that he was going to be subjected to a crappy 90-minute movie with Sandra Bullock. Wait a second...
"I wake up and he's dead. I wake up and he's alive."
Premonition comes to video shelves four months and one day after being released in the theaters, where it earned a $70 million worldwide box office total and a critical drubbing by many. Starring Sandra Bullock, who has done respectable though not exactly groundbreaking work. Does Premonition continue this rather unimpressive streak, or does an overwhelming consensus of movie critics know better?
Facts of the Case
Premonition was written by Bill Kelly (who apparently has a fondness for films surrounding a couple and the space-time continuum, as his last screenplay was for 1999's Blast From the Past) and directed by Mennen Yapo, directing his first American feature (the German director had received praise for a German release titled Soundless). Bullock plays Linda, who is married to Jim (Julian McMahon, Fantastic Four) and has a couple of children. Life is okay, though it could always be better. She receives a knock on the door and things drastically change, as she gets the news that Jim has died in a car crash. But what complicates things even further is she wakes up the next day and finds out that Jim is alive and in the proverbial pink. So she tries to get to the bottom of it all.
There are a few things that are simply off in Premonition and make it a rather mundane film experience. I am one of those viewers that likes watching a film without having to connect the dots. I liked the last Sopranos for that reason. But there are differences to making a story nonlinear with a little bit of reliability to it, and (to paraphrase something Kelly said in an interview on the supplemental materials) throwing all the cards in the air, watching them land, and then trying to figure out the order of the deck in a limited amount of time. The cast half-jokingly talks of the frustration about how screwy the plot timelines are and how they meshed with the production, and for the viewer, watching the film and trying to do so while this other storyline is going on and perhaps making itself nonlinear just throws off the entire film. Premonition would have been better served with flashbacks or timelines that weren't so prevalent through the film. At least it would have been mocked as predictable, rather than the train wreck it is.
As far as the performances go, Bullock is in virtually the whole film, and does admirably to try and combine a mix of emotional confusion with stoicism, with a dash of resolve thrown in. But America is used to seeing her in roles that are a little more saccharine and without any sort of daring, and she should get back to some more of those roles soon. McMahon is woefully underused in the film, and what few scenes he's in, simply appear to be a rehash of those that made him such a charismatic enigma when he appeared in a recurring role on Charmed. However this is not 2003, so this gets a bit tiring. Premonition does have a good quality though. It manages to be the cinematic equivalent of throwing a lot of ideas against the wall to see what sticks. And, like spitballing sessions go, most of it doesn't.
Technically, the MPEG-4 encoded transfer that appears in 1080p and 2.40:1 anamorphic is okay, most of the film is pretty drab, there are some scenes that sport a bit of detail, but otherwise, blacks are decent and provide a good contrast. The PCM soundtrack is a little bit wasted in the film, though there are some sequences that sound clear and have a bit of robust low end to them, but this is far from demo material.
Yapo and Bullock contribute a commentary, the latter party being a slight surprise to the dance, as she's usually been shy about this stuff in the past. While the pair brings a lot of production memories to the table, Yapo is a little bit more technical when it comes to discussing various scenes. Bullock kind of teases at first, but then it pretty much evolves into a mutual admiration society. It's not the best I've heard, but certainly not the worst. Next are five deleted scenes with optional commentary by Yapo, including one alternate ending. Altogether, the scenes run about five minutes in length, and they're really nothing more than extended scenes from the theatrical cut, and not worth raising a fuss over. The alternate ending teases on the Bobby Ewing tip a little bit but doesn't do anything. You've got your standard 15 to 20 minute making of look at the production with interviews with the cast and crew. There's not really too much here worth reciting. "Bringing Order to Chaos" is a look at the film in chronological order which Yapo sorts out via interviews. Just because it's in order doesn't make it any better. "Real Premonitions" is a feature where people share their real-life premonitions, and also doubles as a promotional tie-in for the film. It's actually a pretty good piece, where a man discusses his dreams about an airplane crash three decades ago, and remains heartbroken about it, and the medical explanations are suggested as well. All in all, it's a compelling piece. A gag reel and some previews complete the disc.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
My wife made a couple of interesting observations about the film which I hadn't really considered. The first is that people see Bullock's films because she has an uncanny knack for putting the viewer in a supremely identifiable position. Have premonitions about your husband's death and yet he's still alive? She can convince you that the struggle is a damned emotional one. My wife also makes a valid point that Bullock's character was exploring what her life would be like without a husband, but she wanted to know that it was worth it. Linda realized that although her life had become mundane, her marriage was important and she tried to take steps to change history and fate along with it. Those who want to see this movie and who went to it probably either a) liked Sandra Bullock and would go to see her in just about anything or b), those who believe in premonition and want that ability.
Sandra Bullock says at some point in the supplements on this disc that she wanted to do a horror or suspense type of film; and for my money Premonition isn't it. The film isn't suspenseful, it's not really scary, and in his American directing debut, Mennen Yapo is described with Herzog-like tendencies, but this work proves that he's really Dieter from Sprockets in disguise. Move along, there's nothing to see here.
The court has this recurring dream of a guilty verdict after seeing Premonition, but no one knows for sure what this dream means.
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary with Director Mennan Yapo and Sandra Bullock
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