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Premonition

Director: Mennan Yapo
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Julian McMahon, Nia Long, Amber Valletta, Shyann McClure, Courtney Taylor Burness, Peter Stormare

(TriStar Pictures; US DVD: 17 Jul 2007)

Premonition a cinematic puzzle with a very satisfying final piece put in place.  It’s one of those Hollywood twist-ending thrillers in which you know every scene is leading towards a revelation that will turn the storyline on its ear.  While Premonition is not on the same level as The Sixth Sense, it is nonetheless the first thriller in a while to provoke comparable discussion.
 
The film stars Sandra Bullock as Linda, a suburban soccer mom married to a seemingly perfect husband, Jim (Julian McMahon).  She lives in her dream house and goes about normal housewife activities.  One day, a cop shows up and informs her that Jim was killed in a terrible car accident.  Linda reacts numbly to the news, informs her kids, and goes about making funeral arrangements.  But then as she wakes up the next day, she finds Jim alive in the kitchen, drinking coffee and acting like everything is normal. 


Perhaps his death was all just a nightmare.  Yet when Linda wakes up the day after that, she finds Jim is dead again and her family members are awaiting the funeral.  This is a horrid pattern that begins to form as Linda realizes she is somehow occupying a distorted timeline.  This leaves her scrambling to find out the chronology of this event, and when-and how-Jim can be saved.
 
Usually actors occupying such frantic, supernatural material try to ham it up over the top, pounding home the intensity of peculiar emotions.  Here the actors are calm and barely seem to raise their voices, creating a subtle yet effective atmosphere.  Bullock shows Linda struggling to internalize her emotions and keep things together.  The narrative sidesteps melodramatic music and over-intensified acting, instead trusting the dialogue and performances to convey the strangeness of the situation.
 
Movies like this are intriguing because you know a twist ending is coming.  Sometimes the twist can be a complete letdown (as in Dark Water) or it can elevate the film to a whole new level of satisfaction (as in Signs).  I will try not to give too much away, but I liked how the twist may evoke discussions about the nature of premonitions, a discussion like the one mentioned in the film by a priest (Jude Ciccolella).  If a premonition did come to a person, should they do something about it?  Or would their efforts lead to even more chaos?  What gets me about the ending is how Linda’s obsession with the loophole in time brought about the twist, yet it was the loophole itself that caused Linda to be obsessed in the first place.  Don’t worry, this will all make sense once you see the film.
 
Movies like this don’t just live and die by their endings, they also have to be entertaining as they unravel themselves.  Premonition does that well.  Director Mennan Yapo is able to flesh out human drama beneath supernatural plotting.  I especially liked a tender moment in which Linda and Jim reawaken their old sparks for each other.  The underlying message in the film is that we should appreciate our loved ones every moment they are in our lives. 


Premonition on DVD is a fun and worth the money.  It’s thoroughly compelling, well acted, and doesn’t disappoint in the end.  It’s always nice when you walk into a film with rather low expectations and leave having experienced something worthwhile.  I wasn’t just surprised by the ending, but also by how wrapped up in the story I became, well before the end. 


As for the extras, this is one of the few DVDs I can think of in which a Special Feature is more intriguing than the actual film itself.  “Real-life premonitions” tells of average people, like Joe McMoneagle, who believe they can glimpse into the future.  Apparently, he worked for a department in the CIA that specialized in E.S.P. information, a la John Nash in A Beautiful Mind.  We’d expect someone with this kind of story to tell to be a blowhard eccentric, yet what is fascinating about McMoneagle is how nonchalant and convincing he is when explaining himself.  Perhaps the filmmakers should’ve focused on McMoneagle’s life for their story.
 
Nonetheless, Premonition is a clever meditation on premonitions and the special features help to highlight that.  The disc contains production featurettes and a commentary with Yapo and Bullock that not only provide interesting production tidbits, but also signify what makes this thriller different from comparable Hollywood products.  There’s deleted scenes that are obvious as to why they were the fat that was trimmed.  There’s an alternate ending that provides unexpected suspense after an already effective climax.  It is an open-ended conclusion that leaves a lot to the viewer’s imagination. 


The disc also contains a gag reel, some of which are quite funny (especially ones containing a crow and a human head), yet I’m not so sure that a gag and blooper reel belongs on a DVD for a brooding thriller.  That to me is a blooper in itself.  Also interesting is a feature that reveals the distorted events of the film in chronological order—a feature sure to please fans that really end up enjoying this film.

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Premonition - trailer
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