Crash and Burn

'Premonition' is a nice, Hitchcockian thriller, until the filmmakers tack on a message of redemption

In Premonition, Sandra Bullock, who normally plays a woman trapped on a vehicle which has to move at a great speed, plays Linda Hanson, a woman trapped in a loveless marriage. It's sort of the same thing, only sadder and slower.

But! One morning, she wakes up to find that her husband has left her in the worst way possible: by crashing his car into a fuel tanker and exploding. Saddened by his flaming loss, she resigns herself to a life of even less sex than she had when she was married, and to raising her two adorable children alone.

But! Then she wakes up to find that her husband isn't dead, and his faux death has now awakened in her a great love for him, and, like many who have had life-changing experiences, she acquires a knack for home-improvement projects.

But! Then she wakes up to find that not only is her husband dead; he's been dead for a couple of days, and also that there's a strange woman lurking at his funeral who may well be wearing underwear that would test positive for his DNA.

Because you see, gentle reader, Linda Hanson is living one week out of order. I think it goes Wednesday, Monday, Saturday, Tuesday, Thursday, etc., but basically every time she falls asleep, she gets all Marty McFly, only without Doc Brown to explain everything.

In its many trips back to the future, Premonition is a little bit Memento, a little bit Last Year at Marienbad, a little bit Groundhog Day and a little bit, oh, I dunno, let's say Spellbound.

So it's not exactly an original concept, especially now that 45 percent of all films feature complex, out-of-sequence narratives. But Premonition is, for about two-thirds of its length, an exacting thriller in the Hitchcock mold, which is also kind of a trend in films these days. But whatevs. The important thing is that it has a nicely ominous feel to it, and the mystery gets richer and deeper for about an hour or so.

Then the film crashes and burns like Linda Hanson's husband in his fiery car wreck. The problem is that the novice team of writer Bill Kelly and director Mennan Yapo can't leave well enough alone. Just when the movie reaches its peak, and all the juicy bits are revealed, they ruin it by tossing in some American-style redemption and closure.

Too bad, because there's a great moment to end the film with about a half-hour prior to the actual finale, and with a little editing, Premonition could have been a perfectly executed thriller, instead of a poorly executed message movie.

Things really start to go wrong when Linda Hanson visits her priest to find out why she's come unstuck in time. He basically tells her that it's because she's lost her faith, which is odd, because she's never mentioned losing her faith, and there's no explanation as to why losing one's faith should cause one to come unstuck in time. Last time I read Einstein and the Bible, there was no way to positively correlate faith with linearity of temporal progression.

Plus, the priest, who pretty much just bullshits his answer as to why Hanson is temporally displaced, is supposed to be the good guy. His opposite is the evil psychiatrist who, upon hearing Hanson's story, offers her some pills and therapy, which kind of makes sense, since she's talking about moving through time, which is kind of crazy. But pills and therapy are the province of science, and science, as I understand it, is evil. To hammer this home, the psychiatrist is played by Peter Stormare, who has, in his career, played a mass murderer, a Nazi, Dracula, a nihilist and Satan. Plus, he's Swedish, so, you know: evil.

As a man who was once saved from flesh-eating religionists by a team of scientific adventurers, I find the whole "science-bad, religion-good" thing kind of annoying, but that's just me. However, wherever your eternal soul stands, the final third of this film is a sad attempt to make a creepy and well-paced mystery into a tale of redemption.

Not that there's anything wrong with a message of redemption, but Premonition tacks that message on so clumsily that it's like, if, at the end of Citizen Kane, the sled rose up and took everyone on a magical tour of the bestest moments in Charles Foster Kane's life, and then everyone held hands and sang a song of empowerment.

So on the whole, there's a good hour or so of fine filmmaking to recommend Premonition, with a few mediocre scenes mixed in, and then a tremendously limp ending. What can I say? It's March; this is not when the studios release their "A" material. So if you're in the mood to have your hopes built up and then dashed, and you've already elected a Democratic Congress, you might as well see Premonition.

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