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The Final Countdown

Some films have such a clever or intriguing premise that you immediately get excited about the possibilities ahead of you. THE FINAL COUNTDOWN certainly qualifies on that score.

Kirk Douglas is the Captain of the nuclear carrier USS Nimitz, on a routine trip a couple hundred miles from Hawaii. Martin Sheen is aboard as Lasky, a civilian observer and James Farentino is Cmdr Owens, who also happens to be a Pearl Harbor historian.

That knowledge is likely to come in handy after the ship and all its fighters are transported through a very strange storm/wormhole that takes them back in time to Dec 6th, 1941, the day before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

The possibilities are endless of where the story will go. Will Douglas muster all the might of modern American weaponry and destroy the massive Japanese air attack before it begins?

What will the consequences be if they are seen by the 1941 people of Hawaii? What effect will stopping that attack have on history around the world?

And that's where the movie really disappoints.

As a detailed exploration of how the carrier works, life aboard its decks, the mechanics of takeoff and landing, its really well done, even entertaining.

But as a thriller, it never really goes down any roads you want it to. There is an engagement between a couple planes, there is a high altitude recon of the Japanese fleet, there's even a capture of a Japanese pilot, well played by Soon-Tek Oh (The Man With the Golden Gun).

Charles Durning (The Fury, The Sting) is a blustery US Senator and Katherine Ross (Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, The Graduate) is his assistant, but both are kind of wasted in a subplot confined to the ship.

I sat there waiting for the movie to breakout and really become more than a ship bound Twilight Zone episode.

Douglas's decisions in the final ten minutes dont seem that rational, the final moments that are supposed to be a major twist dont pack much of a punch.

It's a shame that such a cool premise never really goes anywhere. It's kind of cool that the storm/time wormhole was created for the film by Maurice Binder, who did all the James Bond title sequences from the 60's through the 80's. However, it's the same exact effect that was used in 1979's "Dracula" when the vampire seduced Mina. Hey, maybe they should have met Dracula in that wormhole and had him running around the ship.

That would have been more entertaining than the commercial for the Navy that unspools here for almost two slow hours.

THE FINAL COUNTDOWN takes an A+ premise but only manages a C in execution.

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