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10.0 1 10
FanFix May 13, 2023 491
(Updated: May 17, 2023)
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Great Fun!

I've always had a soft spot for this film which plays like a very high-end 'Twilight Zone' or even one of those old, 'One Step Beyond' episodes.

For those who've not seen it, it has a single, rather hokey science fiction idea executed really well. An alternate history about a modern aircraft carrier that travels through time to the day before the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbour, set and filmed on board the real-life USS Nimitz. It doesn't dwell for a moment on the time travel device at all, diving instead into the speculative consequences. It has a great cast and a pretty good script, with Captain Kirk Douglas and his crew dealing with their crazy predicament in a way that feels logical and plausible.

None of it really stands up to much analysis, of course, but hey, who cares when you have modern fighter jets tangling with 'mint' Japanese Zeroes?

What really helps the premise is that the producers were given access to film onboard an honest-to-goodness nuclear powered aircraft carrier. The whole thing has a feel of scale and authenticity because of this. The hardware, the crew etc come across as the real deal because they ARE the real deal.

The aerial sequences in particular are exceptional, and apart from some Maurice Binder FX shots and the odd miniature, the military action is really the main special effect.

Of course, the US Navy doesn't allow their assets to be used as locations, cast and props for nothing. The producers were evidently obliged to allow their film to essentially become a Naval recruitment tool. The unnecessary amount of running time given over to shiny military hardware and procedure messed with the pace of the story and got in the way of something that should have inherently been thrilling, fun and above all pacey. I once tried this movie on a friend who complained the whole thing just felt like a cynical advert.

Silentpete has expertly addressed this issue (along with paring down some other narrative flab) and this is 'The Final Countdown' as it should have been from the start. Now all the excessive military flexing is gone and we're left with just The Twilight Zone writ very large. Hugely enjoyable.

I watched this standard def but as the film makers weren't above pinching some footage from 'Tora Tora Tora' this probably works in the film's favour, making those transitions less noticeable.

As a footnote, there's a weird personal time travel aspect that comes with watching this again. I saw this movie when it first came out but we are now farther removed chronologically from this 1980 production than it was from the events at Pearl Harbour in 1941!

As Kirk says in the film, "I must be dreaming!"


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