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The USS Nimitz, a modern-day nuclear aircraft carrier, is drawn through a time warp from 1980 to a couple days before the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor, and the crew must decide whether to launch a preemptive strike against the incoming Japanese carrier fleet with their more advanced air wing, or allow history to take its course, which might not happen since they had rescued Senator Chapman, who disappeared shortly before the attack, from his death.
It is 1980 and the USS Nimitz puts to sea off of Pearl Harbor for routine exercises. After encountering a strange storm and losing all contact with the US Pacific Fleet, nuclear war with the Soviet Union is assumed and the USS Nimitz arms herself for battle. However, after encountering Japanese Zero scout planes and finding Pearl Harbor filled with pre-World War II battleships, it is realized that the storm the Nimitz went through caused the ship to travel back in time: to December 6th, 1941.
Basically an epic take on Einsteins classic time travel paradox, the premise of THE FINAL COUNTDOWN (FC) could have easily sunk to the level of an adult kids movie, complete with a row of former A-list faces at the bottom of the poster, an audience drawer aptly applied by the AIRPORT disaster series. Nevertheless, it breathes the atmosphere of a classic spectacle thanks to good acting and competent execution.<br/><br/>THE GOOD As mentioned above, the cast does its best with a script where often standard characters serve a script focusing on special effects, anachronism humour and deadlines to return to one's own time which are invariably endangered by an era-crossing romance. These elements can all be traced in FC. Martin Sheen is still in his younger years here and this movie is the definitive acknowledgement that his son is his spitting image, capable of arousing confusion on the screen. As a civilian on an I.A. assignment, he takes on the task of the nearly clairvoyant scientist who is instantly capable of explaining the facts on time travel and his company's current "whenabouts". James Farentino (who I mixed up with amongst others James Booth in "Zulu") as commander Owen is responsible for the romance. An elder Kirk Douglas portrays the stone-cold disbeliever, quite in accordance with his rank. Of the three, he gives the least enthousiastic performance. <br/><br/>The unorthodox thing about these characters is that they evolve under influence of the circumstances in a believable way. Douglas' initial Cold War sceptism makes way for a daring battle plan, Sheen, maybe because KIA wasn't his favourite way of altering history for the benefit of the nation, grows weary of his time travel enthusiasm and Owen learns not to make as big a risk out of such alterings than he used to. They have a tendency to correct themselves in nasty ways to begin with, a few minutes of the movie which I'd forgotten about. <br/><br/>All 3 they're realistic portrayals and people worth rooting for despite their differences. The movie points towards an inevitable direction anyway.<br/><br/>THE BAD The pace is at times a bit too tight to my liking. A more elaborate take on the normal duties aboard the USS Nimitz, on the opposing parties in 1941 and the battle preparations might've been welcome. Also, senator Samuel Chapman is a neglectable issue in terms of alterings when compared to preventing the attack on Pearl Harbour and beyond. All we needed was a girl and a stubborn man. <br/><br/>THE UGLY I guess a lot of people stumble over the special effects (obviously done with time-lapse photography and its brethren) but they didn't look that bad in 1980 given FC didn't have the budget for THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. <br/><br/>The ending is a mixed blessing too. It's cute for sure, but it lacks explanation and all in all... I WANTED TO SEE THE USS NIMITZ BATTLE THE Japanese FLEET !!! (sob) At least there was the fine Japanese fighter pilot running intelligence amok.<br/><br/>...did I mention that F-16's picking a duel with Mitsubishi Zero's and all the pieces of evidence for a time-warp of 40 years is a lot of fun ?
Not often that the time-travel paradox idea can be given a new twist, but here's a decent use of the Nimitz plus an interesting clean getaway from the possible historical time-line problem. Decent music as well. Hard film to classify: it has elements of sci-fi, service drama and old-time action thriller.
It's briefly discussed in the film but it deals with the paradox of time travel itself. How could they go back and prevent the attack on Pearl Harbor? Because if they had done that, then the attack never happened. If it had never happened they wouldn't have needed to try and stop it. Also rescuing Senator Chapman, they saved him from the fate of being strafed and killed by the Zeroes, however he wound up accidentally blowing himself up as a result. Therefore he never lived to be Roosevelt's running mate as he never made it past that day alive. As far as everyone in 1941 was concerned, his yacht sank and he went missing and only those aboard the Nimitz knew what actually happened. Therefore even if one tries to alter history, the paradox of time travel prevents this from happening. No, Japanese mini-subs also attacked Pearl Harbour which would have been more than enough to bring the US into the war. Japan also attacked US territories such as the Philippines, Guam and Wake Island in addition to Pearl Harbour. Also it would only have been the first wave of several airstrikes. <br/><br/> a5c7b9f00b