”On December 7, 1980, the nuclear carrier, U.S.S. Nimitz disappeared in the Pacific… and reappeared December 7, 1941… The day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor!”
This week I thought we’d take a look at yet another time travel movie involving a military vessel… if you remember, we’ve already covered “The Philadelphia Experiment” on both the podcast and also in one of my earlier reviews. The movie I’ve chosen today, though, is one I have seen before, but it has admittedly been a very long time since I last watched it. I still remembered most of it, so I guess I’ve seen it more than once over the years. And many of you know me well enough to know I rarely watch a movie only once, so that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to you, right?
The Final Countdown was directed by Don Taylor, who’s also done Escape From The Planet Of The Apes, The Island of Dr. Moreau(1977) and Damien: Omen II, among many. The producer of the movie was Peter Douglas, the son of Kirk Douglas (In Harm’s Way, Spartacus, The Fury) who plays one of the leads in the movie. The associate producer is Lloyd Kaufmann… you know, the owner of Troma Films, and if you look carefully, he actually has a very small role in The Final Countdown.
Shortly before the aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Nimitz, departs Pearl Harbor for a training mission in the Pacific Ocean, a civilian observer is taken onboard. His name is Warren Lasky and is played by Martin Sheen, an actor who really doesn’t need much of an introduction, I mean, the man has 250 credits on Imdb, so just look him up! Mr. Lasky is onboard on orders from his mysterious employer, Mr. Tideman, whom we only see as a silhouette inside a car, but don’t worry… his identity is revealed at the end of the movie.
On the bridge of the U.S.S. Nimitz we’re introduced to Captain Yelland (Kirk Douglas) and some of his crewmembers, played by James Farentino (Dead & Buried, Her Alibi) and Ron O’Neal (Red Dawn, Super Fly). I don’t think they particularly like the fact that Mr. Lasky is there to “inspect” them and their routines, because although he’s greeted friendly enough, the welcome is still a bit “chilly”, if you know what I mean?
Out at sea, the aircraft carrier encounter a freak storm which they can’t steer clear of; it looks like some sort of weird vortex and the ship pass through it. On the other side all is calm and clear, and everything seems to be ok… except for the fact that they have apparently lost radio contact with everybody. The carrier also starts receiving old radio shows and broadcasts, which of course confuses the crew a little. Captain Yelland sends out a reconnaissance plane and a couple of F-14 Tomcats, to find out what the hell’s going on.
The F-14’s come across a small private yacht, which is suddenly attacked by two old Japanese fighter planes. The F-14’s shoot them down, but the damage has already been done and the yacht is sinking, so the U.S.S. Nimitz sends a helicopter to pick up the survivors. They are Senator Chapman, played by the great Charles Durning (Tootsie, Sharky’s Machine, The Best Little Whore House In Texas), his assistant Laurel Scott (Katharine Ross from The Graduate and The Swarm) and her dog. One of the Japanese pilots is also brought onboard! You might recognize Soon-Tek Oh from Good Guys Wear Black and The Man With The Golden Gun, in that role!
The reconnaissance plane returns with freshly taken photos of Pearl Harbor and what looks like an intact battleship fleet, including the U.S.S. Arizona… which, of course, should be impossible. Captain Yelland and the crew slowly start to suspect that the vortex somehow brought them back in time, to before Pearl Harbor was destroyed. This suspicion is later confirmed when they discover the Japanese fleet on its way for the imminent attack!
The Captain now faces a difficult decision… should he engage the Japanese and ultimately change history, or should he stand back and let history run its course and allow Pearl Harbor to be attacked?
As I stated earlier, it’s been a long time since I last watched The Final Countdown, but Michael and I used to love this type of movie… you know, time travel movies, where they pit new and old technology against each other? I seem to remember us liking it back then, but the question was, would it still hold up watching it all these years later? And yeah, I’d say that it did! It held up ok! I mean, it’s no masterpiece… not by any stretch of the word, but it does exactly what it’s supposed to do… and that is to thrill and entertain you!
I also like the fact that, even though it was initially a low budget movie, the producer, Peter Douglas, still managed to get full co-operation from the U.S. Navy. They were allowed to film the aircrafts taking off and landing without having to resort to stock footage. The little mishap with the emergency landing was actually for real and was allowed in the finished movie. Many in the actual crew of the U.S.S. Nimitz appear as extras in the movie too, and the U.S. Navy even sponsored the films premiere, as far as I know!
So, if you haven’t seen this one before, please do, because it’s definitely worth checking out. It’s a cool little time-travel-dilemma-thriller kind of movie… with a great cast! Oh, and the scenes where the ship passes through the vortex are actually pretty creepy. The sounds are almost like distorted human screams of anguish or pain… and maybe they are! Screams, I mean! Because, for all I know, passing through a time vortex might not be a pleasant experience at all! Who knows, right? As I said… pretty creepy!
And on that note… please leave any thoughts you might have on The Final Countdown, in the comment section below!
Until next week, my friends… look out for freak storms! You never know where, or when, you might end up!