The Final Countdown
Dir: Don Taylor
Star: Kirk Douglas, Martin Sheen, Katharine Ross, James Farentino
Cert / Year: PG / 1980
Format: DVD R2

What would you do if you travelled back in time and had to power to avert a major disaster? Would you, and what about a changing the future? This is exactly what happens to Captain Yelland (Kirk Douglas) of the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Nimitz. While on exercises 200 miles from Pearl Harbour a mysterious storm hits the carrier and they lose contact with the fleet. When it passes they quickly discover that they now in 1941 on the eve of the Japanese attack on Pearl harbour. Consulting one of his crew Richard Owens (James Farentino) who is writing a book on the period and civilian advisor Warren Lasky (Martin Sheen) should Captain Yelland stop the attack and change history?

The Final Countdown is one of those films that crop up on a Saturday afternoon. The sort you tune into half way through and get hooked on, but later you only have a vague memory of. In this case for all of you who can remember the one with the modern aircraft carrier that goes back in time to the second world war congratulations you now know what it is called.

Ok but is it any good? Well yes it is. "What if" movies if handled right can be some of the most thought provoking and interesting pieces of science fiction. This one with all of its military hardware leads to a story that is not only interesting, but potentially very exciting. The idea for the story is both fascinating and original, and initially it is well done. However not much creed is given to the idea that maybe stopping the Japanese attack is not a good idea. I mean if history had been changed America may have not entered the war and Hitler may have won. This is brushed aside by the Captainís duty to defend his country and no real dissenting voice is heard. This is a shame as Martin Sheenís character would have been ideal for this role, because as it is he is left with little to do.

Unprecedented access was granted by the navy for this production to film on the carrier USS Nimitz, and this is an amazing plus point. No model shots here (apart from the things that are too expensive to blow up) this is the real thing. Ok so it turns the film into a bit of a documentary of carrier life, but the realism achieved is both unrivalled and fascinating. This really helps the story along and makes sure that the more fantastic elements of it are easy to digest. The high light of the film has to be the dogfight between the F14 tomcats and the Japanese zeros. This isn't CGI or models these are real planes.

However the cosy of using a real aircraft carrier has led to the films biggest shortcoming. The budget required to buy this form of naval co-operation cannot come cheap, by the same means recreating the battle for Pearl harbour would have also cost a mint (especially in a time before computer generated effects). So rather than show us the battle the film conveniently avoids it. Unfortunately this leaves you with a feeling you have been cheated. It would have been nice if at least some of the battle had been shown. For example the Japanese fleet could have been even bigger than in history and all that the Nimitz planes did was to bring the number down to what the history books reported (a nice plot twist that was used to great success in Andromeda). As things stand the final third of the film is a bit of a disappointment.

The Final Countdown (apart from being the name of a dodgy eighties soft rock classic) is not a bad film. It is an interesting story that is handled well. The use of the real carrier is a brilliant idea and the film makes good use of it. Unfortunately it is a film that promises much yet fails to deliver. I canít help but feel a big budget remake with the suggested improvements would be a classic, but what we have here is an ideal Saturday afternoon movie, and next time it is on it is well worth a watch.

Ok so now you know the name, but can anyone tell what the hell it has to do with the film?

Rating: 2 out of 5

Picture 2.35:1 Suprisingly good picture. Nice a clean,
Audio Dolby Surround Aged soundtrack clear but limited in effects.
Features Trailer
Verdict Good picture for such an old film. But no extras.

Rating: 1 out of 5

Reviewed by Glitz Back Top Home