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The Final Countdown
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Far-fetched but plausable, this is a story about an aircraft carrier traveling backwards in time, just before the start of WWII. The USS Nimitz is cruising peacefully 200 miles off Pearl Harbor when it is suddenly caught in a massive electrical storm and almost immediately the sea becomes calm again. The reconnaissance photos taken after the storm plots their position and indicates a blow-up of Pearl Harbour, circa 1941 with the battleship Arizona visible in the photo. This seems impossible. It dawns on the officers that somehow they have traveled back in time. The crew must now decide whether or not to change the course of history.
With a tantalizing "what-if?" scenario and a respectable cast of Hollywood veterans, The Final Countdown plays like a grand-scale episode of The Twilight Zone. It's really no more than that, and time-travel movies have grown far more sophisticated since this popular 1980 release, but there's still some life remaining in the movie's basic premise: What if a modern-era Navy aircraft carrier--in this case the real-life nuclear-powered U.S.S. Nimitz--was caught in an anomalous storm and thrust 40 years backwards in time to the eve of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor? Will the ship's commander (Kirk Douglas) interfere with history? Will the visiting systems analyst (Martin Sheen) convince him not to? Will a rescued senator from 1941 (Charles Durning) play an unexpected role in the future of American politics? Veteran TV director Don Taylor doesn't do much with the ideas posed by this potentially intriguing plot; he seems more interested in satisfying aviation buffs with loving footage of F-14 "Jolly Roger" fighter jets, made possible by the Navy's generous cooperation. That makes The Final Countdown a better Navy film than a full-fledged time-travel fantasy, but there's a nice little twist at the end, and the plot holes are easy to ignore. James Cameron would've done it better, but this popcorn thriller makes an enjoyable double-bill with The Philadelphia Experiment. --Jeff Shannon
- High-Definition transfer from original camera negative
- Audio Commentary with Director of Photography Victor J. Kemper
- Theatrical Trailers
- TV Spots
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While the basic story holds up pretty well today the movie is a bit dated in some ways, but I think those don't matter much to enjoying the movie. For me (begin a Navy brat from the 1960's and 70's) I found the Corsairs and tomcats on the carrier pretty interesting. While the movie kept my interest and entertained me, it felt like they didn't quite nail the ending. I was left wanting a better plot twist. I don't want to give away anything to first time viewers. The ending does tie up loose ends.
The cast is excellent for its day with Kirk Douglas, James Farentino, Martin Sheen, Katharine Ross and Charles Durning. Oh yes - and Ron O'Neil of SuperFly fame.
I think it's worth a watch if you like historical time travel with some sorta science fiction thrown in. I enjoyed seeing it again after 20+ years. Because the ending isn't as good as the bulk of the movie I'm giving it 4 stars. .
The music score I see was getting slammed in another review but having grown up seeing this movie way back when it's stuck with me through the years as a favorite with clear themes from the battle march to love theme not far removed from a 1977 movie with a much larger budget that carries on to this day from a Lucasfilm catalog. :)
It's a fun yarn with good actors delivering to the best of their abilities within a very confined script that feels much more like a short story adaptation of a Ray Bradbury story than anything but that's just fine for a 1 hour 45 minute watch and trip down memory lane. This almost begs for a re-make with today's modern CGI abilities but I then again, I just love it for what it is.
If you've never seen it - watch it through the eyes of 1980 and have fun. If you have seen it (and the many versions that were VHS quality 3:2 transfers, watch the Amazon version which is 1080 and in full letterbox format and be as surprised as I was how stunning the visuals are now compared to previous viewings.
Final rating: Splash 2.
That's the premise of "The Final Countdown," a 1980 science fiction film starring Kirk Douglas, Martin Sheen, James Farentino, Charles Durning, and Katharine Ross. Sound far-fetched? I remember thinking so the first time I watched it - on TV - many years ago. I also remember thinking at the time that the movie was actually pretty good.
I recently purchased a DVD copy of "The Final Countdown" because wanted to see if it would still seem "pretty good" to me 30 years after I first watched it.
Our story opens in the year 1980. The aircraft carrier "USS Nimitz," operating off the coast of Hawaii, is suddenly caught in a strange electrical vortex that transports the ship and its entire crew back in time to December 6, 1941 - the day before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Captain Yelland, the ship's commanding officer knows his history, and what that portends for the future. He and his crew face a terrible dilemma: should they take steps to stop the impending Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, thereby altering history... or, should they let historical events play themselves out, knowing full well what those events mean for the future?
After viewing "The Final Countdown" for the first time in 30 years, I still think it's a "pretty good" movie. It's well written and acted, has good solid production values, and is both thought-provoking and fun to watch.
No modern-day science fiction film should be without world-class special and visual effects. This is one area where "The Final Countdown" was a bit of a disappointment. The scenes showing the electrical vortex engulfing the "USS Nimitz" were definitely substandard, even by 1980 standards - reflecting perhaps the movie's budgetary constraints. Certainly, three years after the release of the visually dazzling "Star Wars," the production team for "The Final Countdown" should have made a stronger effort to make their film more visually appealing. Other special effects were somewhat better. Scenes of fighters taking off from the "Nimitz's" flight deck were excellent, and accurately showed what goes on during aircraft launch operations. The dogfight scenes between the F-14 fighters and Japanese Zeroes were also noteworthy.
Three decades ago, I first watched "The Final Countdown" and thought it was a "pretty good" movie. That was at a time when hi-tech special effects were in their infancy, and only a very few science fiction/fantasy films were being produced. Now, even with stunning special effects the norm and a plethora of science fiction/fantasy films being released every year, "The Final Countdown" manages to hold its own. It's still a "pretty good" movie. Enjoy!