MARCH 7, 2008
Anyone who’s ever moved cross country (east to west) has probably noticed that they will receive text messages from east coast friends 3 hrs “before” they were sent, due to the time zone difference and small technical... technicalities. Anyway, the first time this happened to me, I thought I had just received a text message from the future. I then got an idea for a movie where a guy gets a “I’m about to die!” message from his girlfriend and has 3 hrs to save her. My twist? She dies because he distracts her during his ‘rescue’ attempt, and had he just left her alone, she’d be fine. I thought of this while watching Premonition, because not only does it have a similar premise, but the ending is also straight out of my vague plot outline.
(NOTE – This review will spoil the ending of the film.)
While the trailers made the film look like a linear sort of Groundhog Day retread, where Sandra Bullock (starting to age, sadly. Why can’t she use whatever Madeline Stowe or Courtney Cox use to look HOTTER as they age??) is told of her husband’s death and then has a week to figure out how to prevent it, it’s really more like Memento. The film takes place over the course of a week (Sunday to Saturday), but the death is on Wednesday, so half the time she is dealing with the loss and the other half she is trying to stop it from occurring at all. And while everyone else seems to be living the week in order, Bullock experiences it on shuffle – Thursday, Monday, Saturday, Sunday, Friday, Tuesday, Wednesday (or something like that). The theme is that as you get older you start losing track of time (yes, this is essentially a filmed version of “All day Wednesday I kept thinking it was Thursday”), and it’s actually pretty solid. Rewatching the film with the commentary, I saw how well it was constructed, and with only minor quibbles with the “time traveling” aspect that would be too difficult to explain here (the short of it – on say, Saturday, her family and friends should have remembered her crazy behavior from Thursday).
Unfortunately, there are two problems. One, despite it’s attempts to make it look like one, it’s not really a horror movie, but a romantic drama with light thriller and psychological elements. Of course, by adding in horror elements, the film would become more ludicrous (a la The Forgotten) so I guess it’s a good thing. And per my rule, IMDb classifies it as horror, and there are a few “only in horror movie” shots, such as when her daughter runs through a glass door and mangles herself badly. There’s also an unintentionally hilarious bit where the husband’s casket falls out of the hearse, and then his disembodied head falls out of the casket. Have you ever seen a head roll around the street in a PG-13 movie (one without Leslie Nielsen anyway)? A+!
The other problem is that Bullock actually causes his death in the first place! In the end, she doesn’t save him, but their renewed love resulted in her getting preggers. That’s nice and all, but it doesn’t change the fact that if she didn’t make him turn his car around on the road, he’d be alive. The themes and point of the film would have been much more meaningful and “awww”-worthy if they had come up with a way to kill the poor sod in a manner that would have occurred even if Bullock wasn’t there at all. Hell, even if she simply called him and his distraction made him forget to look where he was going, it would be fine. But he’s on the side of the road, completely out of danger, and she tells him to do a U turn on a major road. He does, the car stalls, and then he’s hit by a truck that would have simply driven by him had he never moved. Nice work, Sandy!
Still, I actually liked the film. I’m a sucker for sentimentality, and damned if the scenes of the two of them all lovey dovey while Klaus Badelt’s incredibly good (read: perfectly manipulative for folks like me) score plays didn’t make me a bit sad. And I really liked how well the chronology was implemented; once you buy into the sort of fantasy idea that Bullock isn’t REALLY living her days out of order, but that they are simply glorifying the “I don’t know what day it is” feeling people get once their lives become routine, it really works well. The cast is also quite good; Julian McMahon plays a non asshole for once, and he’s actually bearable (I hate Nip/Tuck, and his performance as Doctor Doom is pretty much the bane of all comic book movies). Amber Valletta (who also appeared in the underrated Dead Silence, which was released the same day as this movie) manages to get some sympathy for her ‘other woman’ character, and the great Peter Stormare shows up as a psychiatrist. This is actually a bit manipulative from a casting standpoint – you see Stormare and you automatically begin thinking he’s the “bad guy”; that Bullock’s confusion is a result of him trying out some new drug on her or something. Nope, he’s just a regular shrink. Awesome. I wish he was in it more though, his entire role occurs over a 10 min segment in the middle of the film.
The DVD has a nice collection of extras, and because this was Blu-Ray, I had to watch them all at home (I usually watch my extras at work), making it the first time I have watched a commentary track from my couch in about 3 years or so. The track isn’t particularly exciting, though there’s some nice trivia to learn. The best extra is director Mennan Yapo summarizing the film in sequence (from Sunday to Saturday). Here you can really see how well the supporting cast develops over the course of the week, not to mention how hard it must have been for Bullock to keep track of her character. The deleted scenes are mostly useless, though there’s another one of Bullock’s character smoking, which is significant because how often do you see a non-villain character smoke in a film anymore? Never. Also included is an alternate ending, which was thankfully not used as it makes the film MORE horror-ish, and thus kind of stupid (they don’t show him, but you get the impression that 6 months later he’s suddenly alive again). There’s also a 45 minute doc on real people with premonitions, which I didn’t watch, because, well, come on. I got games to play.
All in all, it’s not going to be a favorite among horror fans, but those who like a nice little character drama with thriller elements should check it out. It’s the type of movie you might be a bit bored/baffled by while watching it, but will stick with you.
And again, you get to see Dr. Doom’s fucking head roll around in the street while his entire family looks on. Amazing.
What say you?