Final Destination Review

by John Beachem (jabii1 AT email DOT msn DOT com)
March 25th, 2000


Review by John Beachem

* * * *

Directed by: James Wong
Written by: Jeffrey Reddick (story), Glen Morgan

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.

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