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Gurglings of a Putrid Stream

Thoughts on books and other assorted topics.

See also:  http://goppf.wikidot.com/swstart

My name:  Brian Martin

The Final Countdown (1980), directed by Don Taylor

Some movies, somewhere near the end, I think back and wonder, How did we get here? The parts -- all moving, all interlocked -- flow smoothly into one another so that the story, be it dramatic or kinetic, takes me far from its point of origin without ever drawing attention to itself. The Final Countdown is not such a movie. It could have been, and it would have been the better for it, but instead it boxes itself in: when you get to end of this movie, you hardly feel as though you've moved at all.

It's a story about time-travel. The modern aircraft carrier Nimitz -- "102 aircraft...6,000 men," according to the movie poster -- gets sucked through a time portal and finds itself somewhere off the shores of Pearl Harbor on December 6, 1947, a day before a day that will live in infamy. But of course the Japanese fleet is well on its way and the big question is, what should the Nimitz do about it?

On board the carrier are Capt. Matthew Yelland (Kirk Douglas), Wing Commander and amateur historian Richard T. Owens (James Farentino), and civilian efficiency expert Warren Lasky (Martin Sheen). Yelland believes his duty is to protect the United States, Lasky that an opportunity to erase the mistakes of the last 40 years is in their hands, and Owens that Time isn't meant to be changed.

This is one of those movies where, at the end, everyone has newfound respect for each other. Not because they earn it, but because that's what happens when men with differing opinions are thrown together in trying circumstances. Isn't it? The problem with this movie is it's mostly premise.

Fortunately, that's also its saving grace. (That, and having Douglas and Sheen.) It's a good premise, especially for history buffs and World War II buffs in particular. Watching this yesterday, it wasn't my first time. I come back to it every so often -- not so much as a movie, but as a toy, to play around with the idea of what happened and what might have been.

Questions I think about (which the movie doesn't begin to ask) are things like: If the attack on Pearl Harbor is so infamous for being a surprise attack, wouldn't attacking the Japanese fleet with the full power of a modern aircraft carrier be equally surprising and unfair? Or, If the Nimitz wiped out the Japanese fleet and thereby obviated the need for Hiroshima and Nagasaki, wouldn't that justify it? Things like that.

It isn't a bad movie, but it is a bit lame. It's the kind of movie that needs your help to keep it hobbling forward.