2 stars (out of four)
On loan from Sherman and Peabody of "The Bullwinkle Show," Sandra Bullock's wayback machine is getting quite a workout lately. In "The Lake House" Bullock played a woman corresponding with a man two years behind her on the time-space continuum. Now, in the dour new thriller "Premonition," she's caught in a week-long, out-of-order flashback, scrambling to discern if her husband has been killed in a car accident, or if she's dreaming, or if she's awake but haunted by visions of what is to come, or if she's been hijacked by the makers of "Babel."
For an hour or so director Mennan Yapo keeps it relatively honest, creating a mood and an atmosphere of autumnal dread in the "Sixth Sense" vein. Screenwriter Bill Kelly (who wrote "Blast From the Past," so clearly he knows something about the past) establishes a Perfect Life scenario early on, just begging to be shattered. Bullock plays Linda, mother of two girls, who arrives home from errands one day to a cryptic phone message from her car-salesman husband Jim ("Nip/Tuck's" Julian McMahon). "I meant what I said in front of the kids the other night," says the voice, sounding preoccupied. Then a sheriff arrives at the house, bearing news of a fatal car accident.
The next morning, Linda awakens to a different reality: Her husband isn't dead, he's eating breakfast, along with her girls. The morning after that, it's back to the other, darker scenario. (At times it's like watching a depressive remake of "Groundhog Day.") At her husband's wake, with Linda's mother (Kate Nelligan) looking on, Linda is horrified to see that one of her daughters has acquired some pretty intense facial scars. Where did they come from? What is the meaning of Jim's final phone message? Who's the woman spied at Jim's funeral? Is the shrink played by ever-untrustworthy Peter Stormare (the Nordic psycho in "Fargo") possibly to be trusted with his Lithium prescriptions?
"Premonition" is a backwards-hopscotch picture, with Linda experiencing her fantasy/reality conundrum in random-shuffle order. Bullock keeps her head down and acts with quietly considered intensity. It's easy to forget that she's a shrewd actress in many different genres, not just comedy. In drama, she's not the sort of performer who seems to be making things up as she goes--she's all about steady gazes and being in control, even when things are spinning out of control--but Bullock's razor-sharp technique has saved many a lesser film.
This one, not quite. As "Premonition" zigzags toward its solution it loses its head completely, packing a risible final reel with left-field religious disquisitions and heartfelt warnings against infidelity. By the time it returns to the scene of the accident, you realize no matter which way the plot resolves itself, it's not going to satisfy. Even Bullock's steadiest gaze of moral authority can't make it right.
Thriller aficionados may enjoy the bit where children sing a bit of "Who Killed Cock Robin?", a song figuring in a key scene from Hitchcock's "Sabotage." Too often people use Hitchcock to club another director's efforts into submission, even when the film in question isn't remotely Hitchockian. Yet you wonder: What would Hitchcock have thought of the pretzel logic behind "Premonition"? He probably would've thought it was cheating. And he would've been right.
Directed by Mennan Yapo; screenplay by Bill Kelly; cinematography by Torsten Lippstock; edited by Neil Travis; production design by Dennis Washington; music by Klaus Badelt; produced by Ashok Amritraj, Jon Jashni, Adam Shankman, Jennifer Gibgot and Sunil Perkash. A TriStar Pictures release; opens Friday. Running time: 1:50. MPAA rating: PG-13 (for some violent content, disturbing images, thematic material and brief language).
Linda Hanson - Sandra Bullock
Jim Hanson - Julian McMahon
Joanne - Kate Nelligan
Annie - Nia Long
Dr. Roth - Peter StormareCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times