THE FINAL COUNTDOWN 4K Review – What If You Could Rewrite History?

THE FINAL COUNTDOWN 4K Review - A Trip Through Time and a Chance to Rewrite History starring Kirk Douglas, Martin Sheen, James Farentino

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The Final Countdown starring Kirk Douglas, Martin Sheen, James Farentino

Directed by Don Taylor

Distributed by Blue Underground

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One common question in regard to time travel is if you could go back in time and kill baby Hitler, would you? Essentially, given the opportunity to play god with life and history to what allegiance would your actions be governed? Let things play out as they historically did, or alter the future forever? – potentially.

The Final Countdown (1980) poses a similar question to Capt. Yelland (Kirk Douglas) and the men of the USS Nimitz who, due to a freak storm, are thrust back in time to December 6, 1941, a day before one of the most infamous dates in U.S. history when the bombing of Pearl Harbor took place. No one else knows the Japanese fleet is headed in their direction. And although the Nimitz is a lone carrier it has more than enough firepower to severely cripple if not outright decimate the enemy. The potential to save countless lives is literally in the hands of these few people, They fiercely debate what actions to take.

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This is not a film concerned with building up to a massive battle; this is a tense and passionate conundrum. The appearance of Senator Chapman’s (Charles Durning) further complicates the situation. He’s a potential future White House candidate who had originally disappeared on the morning of December 7th. Yet now he resides with the Nimitz after an intervention on their part. Much like the Butterfly Effect every action by the carrier has the potential to completely alter the future.

Douglas plays a man of strong conviction whose only loyalty lies with the Navy. His battle is to keep his men safe; not to, as he says, worry about a possible future that has yet to occur. Martin Sheen is on board as a Department of Defense overseer. He immediately seizes upon the opportunity to drive back the Japanese and prevent a catastrophe. James Farentino is a Commander and part-time historian. He knows every intimate detail about what will occur and he uses that knowledge to piecemeal his own version of events to come. What’s great is these men never fight it out or come to blows; these are terse, logical, fantastic discussions dealing with a very real threat in a finite amount of time.

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A big part of why this film excels is because the scenario looks authentic. The filmmakers had full use of the USS Nimitz as well as the cooperation of the Navy and, boy, does it ever add a heaping amount of production value to this low-budgeted feature. As Lloyd Kaufman notes in the bonus features, having a name like Kirk Douglas attached to the film opened up numerous doors that otherwise would have remained shut. The ship is pretty much the star of the film and the filmmakers made sure to shoot it from every angle, showing off the intricate interiors as well as the gorgeous views of the sea from within. Playing with the military comes with a price – that being government oversight of the script and how the branches are portrayed – but the upshot is getting to use all of Uncle Sam’s fancy toys.

The Final Countdown may play a bit dry at times but I appreciate director Don Taylor’s more grounded approach to such a fantastical scenario. Douglas, Sheen, and the rest handle their unique situation with aplomb once they have accepted the bizarre reality of their anachronistic appearance in 1941. It could be easy today to imagine an all-guns-blazing approach to the material, with Douglas’ character practically foaming at the mouth to blast the Japanese but instead Taylor dances around the big action and poses something more introspective. This is smart sci-fi, with a capable cast and large-scale visuals. It offers a refreshing look at complicated issues.

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This is a Blue Underground 4K release and by now buyers should know that distinction practically comes with a guarantee the image you are about to see is immaculate. Sure enough, the 2.40:1 2160p Dolby Vision HDR picture is astonishing, looking so fresh and vibrant and clean you’d never guess it was shot 40 years ago. The only rough spots are inherent because filmmakers can only do so much with optical effects and stock footage. Outside of that, this is a flawless image that showcases the kind of depth in every sense that can be achieved with added resolution and a thoughtful HDR pass. Blue Underground continues their perfect streak of 4K video quality.  

With that upgrade in video comes an upgrade in audio, too. An expected English Dolby Atmos track created for this release is another winner. The film opens with a jet engine roaring and it scorches. There are some solid immersion moments during the air fights. John Scott’s score has plenty of punch and it gets lots of breathing room with the extra channels. There are also English DTS-HD MA 5.1 and 2.0 mixes, as well as a French DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo track. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French, and Spanish.

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The Final Countdown Special Features:

  • Audio Commentary with Director of Photography Victor J. Kemper
  • Lloyd Kaufman Goes Hollywood – Interview with Associate Producer Lloyd Kaufman
  • Starring The Jolly Rogers – Interviews with The Jolly Rogers F-14 Fighter Squadron
  • Theatrical Trailers
  • TV Spots
  • Poster & Still Galleries
  • Fully illustrated collectible booklet featuring The Zero Pilot Journal
  • Reversible sleeve
  • Moving lenticular slipcover (First Pressing only)
  • Optional English SDH, Spanish, and French subtitles for the main feature
  • The Final Countdown
  • Special Features


Blue Underground releases are exactly the type collectors crave and this is yet another fantastic package I highly recommend. The 4K video quality is unrivaled and the efforts made to retain bonus features, and even place them on the 4K disc, show the kind of detail and care that goes into these editions.

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