STARRING: Kirk Douglas, Martin Sheen, Katharine Ross, James Farentino, Ron O'Neal, Charles Durning

1980, 104 Minutes, Directed by: Don Taylor

Description: 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?

Suppose you can take a modern, nuclear-powered aircraft carrier with a full complement of jet fighters back into time to the day before the sneak attack on Pearl Harbour by the Japanese. The question is: do you stop them and prevent the attack from ever happening?

You would change history in the process, but would it be for the better? The attack on Pearl Harbor gave then US President Roosevelt an excuse to enter the Second World War, something he had wanted to do for quite a while. However, how to get the isolationist Americans behind him?

Pearl Harbor provided the excuse and because of its sneaky nature (the Japanese only delivered their declaration of war after the attack had taken place) it brought the Americans behind Roosevelt. How would WWII have progressed without American involvement? Undoubtedly the Russians would have prevailed over the Nazis in the end, but how would the post-war international scene have looked? Would the entire Europe, without American post-war assistance have become Communist satellite states? Would America be the superpower it is today?

"Something you'd watch on TV for free without complaint . . ."

What is baffling is that none of the crew members of said carrier in The Final Countdown debate any of these issues. Sure, they're military men and not really supposed to think for themselves - but still! Instead they dash off to prevent the attack. Will they succeed? If you apply logic to The Final Countdown, then the answer will be apparent.

Not that anyone else applied much logic to the rest of the movie. It's "surprise ending" will be over-familiar to regular Star Trek or Twilight Zone viewers, except those venerable TV shows would probably have handled the story side of things better. Movies such as Time After Time, Back to the Future and 12 Monkeys did a whole lot more with their time travel plots and twists than Final Countdown does.

Final Countdown isn't without interest however. The scenes filmed on a US navy aircraft carrier (and apparently featuring actual crew members as extras - how's that for a touch of added realism?) are interesting.

The acting is okay, but subdued considering the talents involved. The special effects have dated markedly. (Maurice Binder, who did the opening credit sequences for the James Bond movies for years - those usually featuring gorgeous women in silhouette, handled some effects. I think you'd be able to spot the scenes he did for Final Countdown.)

Final Countdown is something you'd watch on TV for free without complaint. If you're really into the historical topic of the Pearl Harbor attack and you can manage a cheap video rental, then viewing it as part of a double bill along with the factually accurate Tora Tora Tora might be a good way to pass a slow Sunday evening.



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