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Final Destination

Review by Gregory Avery
Posted 24 March 2000

Directed by James Wong.

Starring Devon Sawa, 
Chad E. Donella, Kerr Smith, 
Amanda Detmer, Seann William Scott, 
Kristen Cloke and Ali Larter.

Written by Glen Morgan, 
James Wong, and Jeffrey Reddick
Story by Jeffrey Reddick.

In Final Destination, Devon Sawa plays Alex, a teenager who, after having a stark premonition, disembarks from an airplane which then takes off and, just as in his premonition, explodes and crashes. The five other students and one teacher who leave the airplane with him, though, don't act for the most part as if they're glad that their lives have been saved. Instead, their reactions range from the suspicious to outright resentment and anger, and Alex, trying to rationalize things, comes to believe that he has disturbed some greater scheme of things, so that he now has to constantly be on the lookout for anything that could be a portent for disaster.

Of course, you can't live your life like that: constantly worrying about death causes you to miss out on the experience of living. Yet, so credibly does the film set up this emotional situation that, for a while, it appears to be using the conventions of the scarefilm genre to genuinely converse in matters regarding grief, residual guilt, and how people try to make sense out of the "senseless" occurrences and tragedies that beset them.

As the characters' feelings about the crash and how they've "cheated" death start to catch up with them, the film also devolves into a series of sub-Dario Argento murders, bizarre, catastrophic, and convolutedly staged. And the attempt at an ironic, surprise ending that not only seems like the filmmakers are overstepping their range, it's also out of place in what is otherwise an atmospheric, perfectly serious piece of work. The film succeeds in delivering some nasty shocks, but, for a while, it also appears to reach for, and almost grasp, a greater, more profound level of meaning. It may not stop you from ever getting on an airplane again, but, after seeing it, you may possibly look askance the next time you board one. 

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