Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Not to be confused with the 2007 Sandra Bullock film (which is, surprisingly, not a remake of this film), 2004’s Premonition (Yogen is the original Japanese title) is the story of a man who has visions of a newspaper that tells the future. This sounds similar to the 1996-2000 television series Early Edition, but this film is very dark and the newspaper is much more sinister, always predicting death.
In the film, a man and his wife and young daughter are on their way home from visiting family. The man, Hideki, is obsessed with finishing his work and asks to stop at a pay phone to upload an email. They find a small phone booth in the middle of nowhere and stop. While uploading the email, Hideki spies a strange scrap of newspaper under the phone book. He picks it up and the paper moves as if alive. He sees that there is a picture of his daughter and the article says that she was killed in a car crash. Sure enough, as his wife comes over to get his help unbuckling their daughter’s jammed seatbelt, a truck slams into the car, which then bursts into flames moments later, killing the little girl.
We flash forward a few years and the couple has divorced, apparently because the wife does not believe Hideki’s story about the newspaper or understand how guilty he feels. She does, however, investigate such phenomenon and discusses the haunted paper, which has appeared to many people over the years, with a psychic. It becomes clear that the paper is real, and Hideki is forced to see it and the coming deaths no matter how much he tries to avoid it. He attempts to save one of his students, but fails, and is told by her ghost that he is not to interfere with anything he sees in the paper.
Of course, he does, as after reconciling with his wife he sees a paper with her listed as the victim of a train wreck, and he saves her from getting on the train. As punishment for interfering with the paper, he is forced to relive his worst nightmare, the death of his daughter, again and again. He eventually figures out how to save her, exchanging his life for hers, but the movie ends with his daughter seeing the paper, indicating she’s next to go through the vicious cycle.
The movie is a pretty standard time paradox film, playing on the fairly worn out theme that you shouldn’t change destiny, or at least that you can only choose your own fate. It falls pretty flatly in that regard. It’s also kind of hard to take a bit of newspaper as a main antagonist. Other than suddenly flapping against a window, it’s really not so scary. There are also a few too many subplots going on, from the serial killer targeting students to the mysterious author of the book on the newspaper, there’s just a little too much distraction from the main plot.
What saves the movie from being completely mediocre is the performance by the main actors. They really bring feeling to the role, especially Hiroshi Mikami as Hideki, a man tortured by guilt. It’s really worth seeing the film just for his acting.
Other than Mikami’s excellent work, and that of the other actors in the film, the movie is predictable (hah, pun intended) and lacking in focus, but it’s still worth a watch if you have the time.