Is it possible to cheat death, or can it only be delayed a little longer?
This is the primary question posed in "Final Destination", a remarkably
interesting film which could easily have been nothing more than another
teen-slasher movie. I'm not entirely sure just what I found so captivating
about this film; it may have been the performances from the talented young
cast, or the intelligent discussions about the nature of fate. I suppose it
could have been nothing more than morbid curiosity about how each person was
going to die. It may have been the consistently creepy atmosphere created by
James Wong (The X-Files television series), which is further enhanced by a
similarly creepy score from composer, Shirley Walker ("Mystery Men").
Whatever the reason, "Final Destination" turned out to be the movie that
"Scream 3" wanted to be.
Alex Browning (Devon Sawa) is about to go on a class trip to France with
four teachers and forty other students. After a shaky start on the day,
filled with bizarre images and strange gut feelings, he finally boards the
plane. While awaiting departure, Alex has a sudden vision of the plane
exploding in mid-air and all of the passengers being killed. After screaming
about the plane being destroyed, he is ejected from the plane along with
five other students and one teacher. The aircraft wastes no time in
fulfilling Alex's vision, and the seven survivors slowly move on with their
lives, dealing with their unexpected luck in different ways. However, as the
creepy mortician Bludworth (Tony Todd) points out, in death there are no
accidents, no coincidences, and no escapes. As the survivors are slowly
picked off, Alex must determine when death is going to try for him again.
James Wong's film is loaded with atmosphere; I suppose due to his work on
The X-Files. The death scenes are mostly done in a very stylish manner with
Walker's score playing hauntingly in the background, while we watch death
creep up on the unsuspecting victims. Alex's visions are interestingly done
as well. They never actually show him the deaths (except the plane crash
vision), he must determine how the things he sees might cause a death. Not
all the death scenes are slow and stylish; some are there purely for shock
value, and boy do they ever shock. One death scene occured so suddenly that
the audience and I didn't even have a chance to jump in surprise. Everyone
simply stared at the screen in shock, for several seconds, before exploding
into cheers and applause for how well the surprise was accomplished.
"Final Destination" features quite a talented cast. Devon Sawa ("Idle
Hands") is a very talented, young actor who I could see breaking into some
great roles. Ali Larter ("House on Haunted Hill"), who plays the strangely
named Clear Rivers, is excellent as the only person who believes Alex was
responsible for saving her life. The remaining young actors (Chad Donella,
Seann William Scott, Amanda Detmer) are uniformly good, each playing a very
different character. Tony Todd ("Candyman", "The Rock") may appear in only
one scene, but the man is so excellent at causing chills to run down your
spine just listening to him, that any appearance at all is welcome. The only
weak link is Daniel Roebuck ("US Marshalls") as FBI Agent Wiene. I don't
actually think this is due to Roebuck himself, as he is not an untalented
actor, but the character served no purpose.
Another thing I must compliment Wong about was the way in which he was able
to keep the film from falling into any typical teen-slasher movie patterns.
On nearly every occasion that the movie begins to show signs of becoming
cliche ridden, Wong reins it in nicely. The only exceptions are a long,
drawn out chase scene near the end and one somewhat predictable death scene.
"Final Destination" runs an admirable 100 minutes, though a little trimming
couldn't have hurt. I give it a full recommendation for some great acting,
an intriguing premise, and some thought provoking dialogue. I also admit to
having a weakness for atmospheric movies, and this one is steeped in it. I
give "Final Destination" a well earned four out of five stars.
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* * * * * - One of the greatest movies ever made, see it now.
* * * * - Great flick, try and catch this one.
* * * - Okay movie, hits and misses.
* * - Pretty bad, see it only if you have nothing better to do.
* - One of the worst movies ever made. See it only if you enjoy pain.
Copyright © 2000 John Beachem