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Trailer movies. I'm starting to hate them. You know what I'm talking about. There are some movies that look really good when you see the trailer. The minute and a half look at the film makes it seem funny, or really spooky, or just plain entertaining. You get all psyched up about the film and when it comes out and you finally see it, you realize that all of the good sections in the film were shown in the trailer. The ad for the film wasn't just the tip of the iceberg, but the whole chunk of ice. One such movie is Premonition, a Sandra Bullock vehicle helmed by sophomore director Mennan Yapo (his first studio movie.) The trailer to this film made it look like a taught, gripping drama, and while it is, just about the whole film, including the ending, is shown in that advance look at the film.
Linda Hanson (Sandra Bullock) is a typical housewife. She takes the kids to school, cleans the house, the usual stuff. Her life comes crashing down around her one Thursday afternoon when a Sheriff arrives at her door and informs her that her husband, Jim (Julian McMahon), was killed the previous day in a car accident. Naturally she's in shock, and sleepwalks through the rest of the day, not knowing what to do.
The next morning she wakes up, and Jim is downstairs eating breakfast. He's running late and rushes out without saying much leaving Linda confused and upset. It turns out that it is Monday. Was the previous day just a dream? Things get more unsettling when she wakes up the next morning. She walks downstairs to find her house filled with guests dressed in black for a wake. Jim is dead again.
This pattern continues and she jumps back and forth in time each day, becoming unstuck in time like poor Billy Pilgrim from Slaughterhouse Five. Once she understands what is happening, she tries to stop Jim's death. The way things are happening she quickly determines that small things can change, but can she change a significant event like her husband's death?
This movie has a great premise and a wonderful cast, but there are a few things that keep it from working. First of all the audience figures out everything about 10 minutes before Linda gets around to putting the pieces together. This is especially aggravating in the beginning where we all know what's happening is real, and she's still not sure if it's a dream. After she realizes that she's experiencing the future (or is she just going back into the past?) the film starts to pick up some. Even then the future plot revelations are easy to pick out. Linda sees an incredibally hot lady standing by the road at Jim's funeral who tries to run away when she's approached, and then Jim is acting distant and has to be prodded to tell his daughters that he loves his wife. Hmmmm, what could be going on?
Then there are some problems and inconsistencies with the plot. Granted, this is not told in a linear fashion with the narrative jumping forward and backwards through time and with events changing based on Linda's actions (sometimes, other times they change for no reason) and it can be just a little difficult to follow. Even so, the script could have been much tighter, and a there are a couple of glaring snafus in the script.
The most disappointing aspect of this movie was the fact that the ending is shown in the trailer. When the climax of the film is approaching, anyone who remembers seeing the advance promotion for the film will realize what's going to happen which removes a lot of the suspense that the director is trying to build. That was just really sloppy.
The direction by Mennan Yapo is competent, but not much more than that. The movie should have been much more polished than it was, especially with an actress like Bullock starring. There were a few scenes that just didn't work at all, such as when Linda approaches the hearse before Jim's funeral. She demands to see his body, and while the funeral house operator is objecting, the attendants remove the casket and drop it. The lid pops off and Jim's head flies out and rolls down the street. This was supposed to be a horrific moment, but I actually laughed as it transpired. It was just too slapstick. In reality the attendants wouldn't have disobeyed their boss, the coffin would have been sealed and they would have sewn the head back onto the body. The fact that none of these occur makes the bit seem silly and humorous.
Yapo's directing is pretty heavy handed too. He tries to create suspense in many scenes that aren't suspenseful and shouldn't be directed that way. Everything from throwing out a dead bird to walking down the stairs is done slowly with ominous music playing. It became old very quickly, especially the music. Hollywood seems to think that every emotion has to be triggered with swelling music nowadays, but this movie's soundtrack is more manipulative and intrusive than any other film that I can recall. If a film is directed well, you won't need music to cue suspense at all. There wasn't dire music playing when Raymond Burr discovers Grace Kelly in his apartment in Rear Window. It's a crutch for directors who can't raise suspense in any other way. This crutch is used over and over again in this film, to the point where it was irritating.
Though there are some problems with this movie, it's not all bad. Sandra Bullock gave a very good performance in a difficult role. Her transformation from shock, to confusion, to anger, and so on is a main theme of the film and she manages to display all of these emotions realistically and with conviction. This would have been a farce of a film with a lesser actress in the lead, but Bullock carries it off admirably.
The Blu-ray Disc:
This 2.40:1 presentation looks very good overall. The most disconcerting part of the film is the very beginning, where the image is incredibly washed out with little contrast. After an instant of panic, I realized that the cinematographer purposefully set the white levels off to create the effect. Throughout the film whenever there is a flashback they relate it in this washed out faded way, so that we simple-minded viewers won't become confused. Wasn't that nice of them? In any case these scenes look horrible, as they were intended to, and with a sever lack of detail and some digital noise. The rest of the movie looks fine however. The colors are solid and the black levels are fine. There isn't a lot of eye-pop on this disc, but that's due to the nature of the movie more than to any defect with the reproduction.
This disc gives viewers the choice of listening to an uncompressed PCM 5.1 track or DD 5.1 tracks in English or French. I selected the PCM audio, and while I wasn't thrilled with the way sound was used in the film (see the body of the review for more details), this disc does an adequate job of reproducing what's there. The movie itself doesn't make use of the full soundstage much, except when the background music is telling you that something creepy is coming up. In those instances the whole room is filled with sound, but after the moment passes the audio basically collapses into a stereo mix. That's too bad, because there were moments when the rears could have been used to better effect, throwing some incidental sounds behind the viewer every now and again would have given the film a more enveloping feel.
There are a good number of bonus items featured on this disc, but unfortunately none of them are very good. First off is a commentary by director Mennan Yapo and star Sandra Bullock. I was excited to hear what Bullock had to say about the film, but this track left me very under-whelmed. The pair doesn't really have a lot to say and there are large gaps of silence through this track. Yapo chimes in to describe the action on screen, but he does this way too often for my tastes. "And now she's going to pull over to the side of the road and the camera will pull back." That sort of thing. Towards the end they do get a bit livelier, and Sandra explaining the end makes her sound like a bit of an idiot, which I don't think she is. One interesting fact that was revealed is that an important plot point at the very end was improvised by Bollock. That revelation made me wonder how much more of the film was changed at the last minute, something that could explain many of the inconsistencies.
Moving along there are a few deleted scenes, most of which are just slight extensions of scenes already in the movie or throw away bits such as seeing Linda's mother arrive. In the commentary it was noted that three endings were filmed, but only one alternate ending is included here. This one, which I believe is the way the film was originally supposed to end, was even worse than the one in the movie. It was a really, really stupid way to end a film and I'm glad that calmer heads prevailed. There is also a gag reel that is mildly amusing, but is worth watching for an alternate take of the climactic scene.
Glimpses into the Future is a standard making of featurette with interviews with the cast and crew where they describe the film and pat each other on the back. It runs for 15-minutes and is worth skipping. Next up is Making Order Out of Chaos, a 12-minute re-edit of the film in chronological order, just in case you didn't get things the first time through.
The disc wraps up with the longest featurette, Real Premonitions, which runs about 45-minutes and is total and utter garbage. This bit interviews real people who claim to have experienced premonitions in real life. This show doesn't look at the claims of these wackos critically; rather it tries to give viewers one side of the story and lets them decide for themselves (something that's a bit hard when only one side is examined.) Skip this one too. (Am I the only one who finds it ironic that this latest techonolgy disc, something that was created solely through scientific research and engineering, is being used to promote belief in the supernatural?)
It isn't too often that a major studio release will have this many extras which are all pretty much worthless. It's really to bad they couldn't come up with some quality bonus items.
This is a film that nearly works, but ultimately doesn't quite fit together the way it should. It does have a great premise, and though it evolves a little slowly in parts there are some good moments. The inconsistencies with the plot and the heavy handed direction and music are hard to take at times though. The ending isn't nearly as satisfying as it should be, and when all was said and done a large part of me thought that the trailer made a better film. Worth checking out if you're interested in this type of film, but make it a rental.
Note: The images in this review are not from the Blu-ray disc and do not necessarily represent the image quality on the disc.