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Semi-Compelling Drama With a Twist

Only a year after The Lake House, Sandra Bullock is back in the similarly structured and similarly themed Premonition, a non-linear thriller with a science-fiction or supernatural twist. As in The Lake House and the earlier 28 Days, Bullock proves she can handle material that requires a deeper emotional range.

With a German-born director, Mennan Yapo (Soundless, Framed), making his English-language debut and a screenwriter, Bill Kelly, with just one produced credit to his name (Blast from the Past), it looked likely that Premonition would be just another generic mystery/thriller, albeit one aimed primarily at women. Luckily, that’s not the case.

Linda Hanson (Sandra Bullock) has a seemingly perfect life, a successful, loving husband, Jim (Julian McMahon), two adoring daughters, Bridgette (Courtney Taylor Burness) and Megan (Shyann McClure), and a big, overstuffed house to call home in Shreveport, Louisiana. Her perfect life goes awry when she wakes up one morning to the news of Jim’s death in a car accident the previous day. While her mother, Joanne (Kate Nelligan), steps in to offer emotional support and help with her grandchildren, as does her best friend, Annie (Nia Long), relief proves temporary as Linda wakes up the next day with Jim still alive and asleep next to her.

Convinced that she only dreamed Jim's death, Linda returns to her normal routine (e.g. cooking, cleaning, laundry, picking up her daughters from school). Hours later, though, she wakes again to discover Jim is, in fact, dead, and his funeral is hours away. Linda spots Jim’s co-worker Claire (Amber Valletta) at the cemetery, a hint that Jim wasn’t everything Linda thought he was. Increasingly distraught but now convinced that Jim will die, Linda goes to Dr. Norman Roth (Peter Stormare), a psychologist, for advice. Roth doesn’t help, forcing Linda to return to her old church and priest for spiritual advice. As Linda’s emotional state deteriorates, her family and friends begin to suspect that she’s slipped into a dangerous delusional state triggered by Jim’s premature death.

For a film with a title like Premonition, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the central character will somehow “see” or otherwise experience a future event. Premonition, though, goes further, shuttling forward and backward in time before and after the accident that apparently ends Jim’s life. As stated earlier, structurally, the movie resembles Sandra Bullock’s last serious dramatic role, The Lake House. However, unlike The Lake House’s ultimately incoherent storyline, Premonition is easier to follow once moviegoers pick up the symmetrical structure which alternates days after and before the accident.

Ultimately, Premonition returns to the same question over and over again: can Linda save her husband, change her fate, change events that seem, at first glance, preordained? To Kelly's credit, the movie doesn't take the path of least resistance, instead going for a combination of drama and pathos, minus the easy optimism. Unfortunately, the film's producers decided an upbeat ending was mandatory to improve Premonition’s prospects at the box-office. Add to that multiple contradictions and implausibilities and a major failure of nerve, and the end result is a film that slips from gripping to disappointing in a few short minutes.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars