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Final Destination
(New Line Platinum Series)

review by Anthony D.

 

 

Rated R

Studio: New Line

Running Time: 98 Minutes

Starring Devon Sawa, Ali Larter, Kerr Smith and Tony Todd

Written by Glen Morgan and James Wong; from a story by Jeffrey Reddick

Directed by James Wong

Retail Price: $29.99

Features: Commentary by Filmmakers, Commentary by Actors, 5.1 Isolated Score with Composer Commentary, Trailers, Two Documentaries: A Look at Test Screening, Premonitions. DVD-ROM features: Screenplay, Link to Theatrical Website, Games

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound English, Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Sound English, Chapter Search

Suppose for a moment that Death, with a capital "D," has a linear plan for you. Now suppose that you are wise enough to find the key to that plan. Do you accept Death's plan, or do you use your knowledge of his ways to save yourself to live another day?

Alex Browning (Devon Sawa) a typical high school student in all respects, is suddenly granted a premonition of the seemingly haphazard manner in which Death stalks. Unfortunately for a plane full of fellow French class students about to embark for Paris, Alex's premonition comes to be, leaving only seven survivors: Alex, and a handful of others who were kicked off of the plane just before take-off. The plane's destruction is vividly rendered through the eyes of those survivors awaiting police interrogation through the airport's window. Because of this violent act of death, Alex is suspected by the police and F.B.I. as being the terrorist who sabotaged the airplane. The horrifying disaster's survivors now begin to meet untimely ends, all seemingly linked to the air disaster. As each death comes, so comes a premonition to Alex, just before his comrades meet violent ends.

Becoming reclusive, Alex pores over the newspaper and internet accounts of the accident until he comes to a shocking hypothesis: the survivors, himself included, are being taken by Death in the order that they would have perished on the plane! Armed with this knowledge, can Alex convince the few remaining friends that 1). He hasn't gone off the deep end into insanity? 2). That there IS a way to cheat Death's plan, and survive to live another day?

In James Wong's film, "Final Destination," the answers come hard and fast, taking viewers on a trip filled with suspense and intelligence. Coming from a television background, ex-X-Files director Wong, acquits himself nicely as a first-time film director. With writers Glen Morgan and Jeffrey Reddick, Wong has fashioned a thriller filled with fanciful film references (each of the survivor's name is an hommage to classic horror genre film directors) bound to keep viewers on the edge of their seats for a thrilling ninety minute flight of fear.

As expected, New Line's Platinum Series presentation of "Final Destination" boasts a pleasingly pristine print, even if fleshtones occasionally edge toward the orange. As a book's flipping pages cross the screen in the opening credits, one can freeze frame and actually read the page, the picture is that clear! Detail is rendered more than adequately with no signs of moiring on patterned prints fan blades. Contrast level at times is a little less than it should be, as evidenced in early scenes depicting the airport's arrival and departure boards, but not to the extent that it interferes with the viewing pleasure. Special effects shots are very nicely pulled off as well. Colors remain stable throughout the film, as fans of blood-letting can see for themselves in Chapter 12 (Miss Lewton), but there is a smattering of grain in some of the darkly lit scenes.

The audio is near-reference quality. The soundstage constructed by the Dolby Digital 5.1 track, with its outstanding use of rear channels, puts the viewer right into the action. The LFE channel rarely gets a chance to rest, ocassionally rattling the room with its sonics. Dialogue is front and center and easily understood. The bass positively booms when it should, creating quite an active audio experience.

Packed with three audio commentaries, as well as documentaries, deleted scenes and a trailer, the "Final Destination" package should keep viewers entertained for hours long after watching the movie. There are no great revelations coming from the actors, but the Filmmaker Commentary offers up some serious thoughts about the filmmaking process, as well as thoughts of making an audience-ready film. Finally composer Shirley Walker offers her thoughts on scoring the film. All commentaries are scene-specific and each has its own satisfactions. The theatrical trailer is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, and doesn't give away any of the film's secrets, actually whetting one's appetite to see the film.

A special caveat goes out to the viewers who normally would watch the special features first: If you haven't already seen "Final Destination," DO NOT watch the documentary on Test Screenings, as it offers information on the film's structure and re-structure giving away key plot elements. The other documentary features a female psychic who is often used by police forces and F.B.I. investigative teams, but is not nearly as interesting as it sounds. However, the games section is very intriguing, including a "Death Clock" quiz, that lets you know the date and time of your departure. If anyone's interested, I will die at 10:30am on June 8, 2026; which will take me to the ripe old age of 70! Psychics amongst you will know that I also scored very highly on the psychic test game where you are asked to pick the card that has been selected. I think that all dvds should have such interesting theme games on them.

 

For the most part, I enjoyed this movie, though, I would have preferred the version that was tested with audiences. That would have been a more esoteric, symbolistic take of Death, though, and a harder sell for the studio. Still, "Final Destination" has its moments of "jump-out-of-your-seats" shocks, and enough intelligence to satisfy me to watch it repeatedly. Being an "The X-Files" fanatic since its premiere, I expected an evening of suspense, possibly horror from James Wong and Glen Morgan, and I wasn't disappointed. I was taken into the story primarily through its cast of unknown (at least to me) actors, each who create believable characters caught up in extraordinary circumstances. If at times, they go to extremes with their acting, I would tend to write that off to youthful enthusiasm rather than over-acting. I have been recommending "Final Destination" to various friends and co-workers lately, and have yet to hear any comments of disappointment on their parts. Although it wasn't a blockbuster of a film, I'm sure that "Final Destination" will find a place in the home video libraries of fans of the suspense genre; at the very least, it's worth a rental. Once seen though, I dare the viewer to listen to the John Denver song, "Rocky Mountain High" without thinking of "Final Destination."

(3/5, NOT included in final score)

(4.5/5)

(5/5)

(5/5)

(4/5, NOT an average)

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