Final Destination

Film review by Thomas M. Sipos

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Final Destination  (2000, dir: James Wong; cast: Devon Sawa, Ali Larter, Kerr Smith, Kristen Cloke, Daniel Roebuck, Roger Guenveur Smith, Chad Donella, Sean Willian Scott, Tony Todd, Amanda Detmer)

 

 

 

There's an old Twilight Zone episode. Some astronauts go up in space. There's a problem, but they return safely and everything seems fine. Then they start vanishing, one by one. Along with all traces of their previous existence. Once gone, no one remembers him. Only one astronaut realizes what's happening, but no one believes him. As he watches his comrades disappear, knowing his time will come, he theorizes that they were meant to die in space. That ... something up there ... meant to keep them. Aliens? Or an angry God, offended by Man's incursion into where he was not meant to go?

All this hapless astronaut knows is that they have upset some cosmic scheme by flying up, and then returning. And now that cosmic ... something ... is correcting the error.

Despite the lack of special effects, it's one of the old Twilight Zone's creepier episodes, combining sci-fi with horror and mysticism.

Final Destination alters some of the details, and offers much special effects, but it's basically the same story.

A high school graduating class plans a trip to Paris. But while checking in at the airport, Alex (Devon Sawa) gets an odd feeling. He notices strange things, that perhaps mean nothing. Once on the plane, he has a nightmare that the plane explodes shortly after takeoff.

It is said one can dream a lifetime in the span of a second (the premise of another golden oldie Twilight Zone). Alex awakes and discovers the plane has yet to take off. When a few random occurrences mirror his nightmare (he is asked to change seats; a tray breaks) he realizes his nightmare is coming true. He screams that the plane will explode, shrieking everyone must disembark NOW!

He is forcibly removed from the plane, along with several protesting classmates. Another classmate, Clear (Ali Larter), leaves voluntarily as she is affected by Alex's fears. One of two teachers reluctantly stays behind with the ejected students.

As the plane takes off with most of the students still onboard, the ones left behind revile Alex. "We lose a whole day in Paris!" Then they see the plane explode in the sky.

No, I haven't given away anything. The story is just beginning. For although they momentarily escape death, the survivors soon begin to die in freak accidents, one by one.

 

 

Alex theorizes that Death has a pattern for everyone. That through some flaw in the fabric of the universe, he saw the pattern and was able to avoid death. But it was "their time." And now, Death is repairing its cosmic pattern, returning for Alex and the survivors.

And so, Alex struggles to decipher Death's cosmic pattern. If he can see it, he can avoid the potential accidents Death has laid out for him and the other survivors. Alex's discovery of the pattern evokes The X-Files for its creepy blend of the paranormal with cold investigative procedure.

There is much merit in Final Destination. The film explores the survivors' guilt, and their anger at Alex for failing to save everyone or to foresee other deaths. Some survivors feel grateful to Alex, others regard him a freak. Still others seek additional psychic prognostications. During the memorial service, a student asks Alex if a certain girl will say "yes" if he asked her for a date. The surviving teacher fears Alex, although she can't rationalize her fears. The police suspect Alex of bombing the plane -- how else could he know it would explode?

 

 

 

Final Destination exploits viewers' fears of flying. You'll never see it on a flight; no airline would show it. Final Destination features the most fearsome passenger air disaster scene ever filmed. None of those 1970s airline disaster films can match it. Nor any air warfare film. You see the plane's body tear open, passengers clinging desperately to their seats before being sucked out before other passengers' eyes. Then after much mayhem and sucking, and fire and explosions, passengers burned alive... It's a long and gruesome scene. Not something you'd care to see at 35,000 feet.

The other deaths are gruesome too. The suspense ever present. The characters' emotional reactions appropriate. The budding trust, then love, between Alex and Clear is well-handled.

There is no humor or black comedy. Final Destination is a film of deadpan horror, similar to The X-Files's blend of cold reality and the unexplainable. The cause of horror -- Death's cosmic pattern -- is suggested, but never fully revealed or understood.

Final Destination offers both gore, and dark suggestive horror, delivering on both counts.

Review copyright by Thomas M. Sipos

 

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