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USA 1980
Directed by
Don Taylor
104 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

The Final Countdown

The Final Countdown is essentially a B-grade film enhanced by some surprisingly good production values and high-quality aerial photography. The story concerns a state-of-the-art nuclear aircraft carrier commanded by Capt. Matthew Yelland (Kirk Douglas, looking like he’s just escaped the hands of an over-zealous plastic surgeon), which travels through some kind of time portal and is sent back 40 years to the day before Pearl Harbor. Meanwhile Presidential hopeful Senator Samuel Chapman (Charles Durning) and his P.A., Laurel Scott (Katharine Ross), are floating around in a pleasure cruiser for some inexplicable reason and get strafed by Japanese fighter planes. The two worlds collide and there’s lots of puzzlement but Warren Lasky (Martin Sheen) is on board the aircraft to ease Kirk through the conceptual non sequiturs.

The film was a monumental flop in its day no doubt because, rather mysteriously with such much at stake, the opportunity to alter history and all that, so little happens. Somehow, with every build-up to action someone decides that it is probably not a good idea and everything comes to nothing. But this mood of recurring suspension is the film's charm. It is rare for Americans to actually reflect on their situation rather than blow something to kingdom come  Even this however would not be enough were not the film sustained by a high level of technical accuracy (it was clearly shot with generous Navy co-operation). It is precisely when the film tries to imbue proceedings with dramatic interest that it shows its B-grade Twilight Zone credentials (not surprisingly director Taylor spent most of his career, before and after this, in television), notably with the tacked-on ending which attempts to tie the two time frames together but which does not even remotely convince.

The Final Countdown is an oddball film made in Hollywood's pre-Bruckheimer days (and with no sign of that dreadful Europe song of the same name which would be a chart topper six years later).




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