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The Final Countdown
U.S.S. Nimitz: Lost in the Pacific

USA 1980
produced by
Peter Douglas, Richard R. St. Johns (executive), Kirk Douglas (executive), Lloyd Kaufman (associate) for Bryna Productions
directed by Don Taylor
starring Kirk Douglas, Martin Sheen, Katharine Ross, James Farentino, Ron O'Neal, Charles Durning, Victor Mohica, James Coleman, Soon-Tek Oh, Joe Lowry, Alvin Ing, Mark Thomas, Harold Bergman, Dan Fitzgerald, Lloyd Kaufman, Peter Douglas, Ted Richert, George Warren, Gary Morgan, Phil Philbin, Robert Goodman, Richard Liberty, Neil Ronco, Bill Couch, Jack McDermott, Masayuki Yamazuki, George H. Strohsahl jr, Ronald R. Stoops, Kenneth J. Jaskolski, Sergei M. Kowalchik, Jake Dennis, Jim Toone, Edward J. Deats, Robert L. Huffman, James R. Augustus, Sam P. Baldwin, Ronnie J. Ellis
story by Thomas Hunter, Peter Powell, David Ambrose, screenplay by David Ambrose, Gerry Davis, Thomas Hunter, Peter Powell, music by John Scott, special effects by Joe Day, Garry Elmendorf, Pat Elmendorf, visual effects by Maurice Binder

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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The U.S.S. Nimitz is one of the largest and most modern US aircraft carriers, but at the moment just doing a routine patrol through the pacific, which is to be observed by system analyst Lasky (Martin Sheen) for the company that designed and built the ship. However the patrol soon turns out to be anything but routine when the Nimitz gets into a freak storm and is spat out what ultimately turns out to be the same general area but in 1941, only days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. As the captain of the Nimitz, Yelland (Kirk Douglas) observes two Japanese fighter planes viciously attack and sink a yacht, he orders the planes destroyed, but the survivors of the yacht, Senator Chapman (Charles Durning) and his secretary Laurel (Kathatine Ross) and the one surviving Japanese pilot (Soon-Tek Oh) rescued. The Japanese pilot soon gets hold of a gun and tries to shoot his way out of captivity but is shot for it, while the senator makes all sorts of demands while denying himself the obvious, that he's on a aircraft carrier from the future, while Laurel falls in love with Commander Owens (James Farentino), the ship's history expert. Being in the 1940s with their futuristic weaponry, it would be an easy thing for the Nimitz to prevent the attack on Pearl Harbour, something Yelland discusses with his second in command Thurman (Ron O'Neal) as well as Lasky and Owens, and apart from Owens all are for it, more or less, but first, Yelland needs the senator and Laurel out of the way and orders them abandoned on a desert island with enough food and water to ensure their survival - but when the senator finds out about this, he grabs hold of a flare gun and blows up the helicopter that has been carrying them, also killing himself in the process, with only Laurel and Owens, who has been accompanying them, surviving. Yelland readies his war machinery and has his bomber jets take to the air when another time storm shows up on the horizon ...

 

Now the concept of The Final Countdown, even if it was somewhat recycled from the previous year's G.I. Samurai, is of course an interesting one, as it asks many questions both from an ethical and philosophical point of view. Unfortunately, the film doesn't try to live up to this and seems to be more a commercial for the US Navy's strike power - and the shoot has been unsurprisingly heavily been supported by the Navy, by not only letting the film crew film on the actual U.S.S. Nimitz and give them access to Navy gear, also many supporting players and extras were rectuited from the Nimitz's actual crew. As a consequence, many of the more important questions about the nature of war as such are simply ignored in favour for some good old patriotism, and in that light then, the Japanese are collectively portrayed as nothing but bloodthirsty monsters, something pretty much out of date even in 1980. So taken by its original merits, The Final Countdown is just not a very good movie - but if you factor in the nostalgia effect, it just makes a perfect time capsule as it shows a world view that feels terribly outdated today but also oddly endearing, making this a very interesting watch - interesting for all the wrong reasons, but interesting still.

 

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review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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