Title: Final Destination 5

Directed By: Steven Quale

Written By: Eric Heisserer

Cast: Nicholas D’Agosto, Emma Bell, Miles Fisher, Arlen Escarpeta, David Koechner, Tony Todd

Screened at: AMC Empire, NYC, 8/10/11

Opens: August 12, 2011

“We’re gonna die! We’re gonna die!” Far be it from me to contradict that sober advice. We wonder, though, whether we’re going to die in bed (preferably with someone who looks like Ryan Gosling or Rachel McAdams) or by violence. One philosopher, a Mr. Gary Gutting, deals with the question of death in a New York Times column August 10th called “Trying to Live Forever,” in which he concludes, “When all is said and done, how we die is a crap-shoot, and, short of avoiding obvious risks such as smoking and poor diet, there’s little we can do to load the dice.”

The characters in Steven Quale’s debut work as director of a full-length feature film (he is credited as a protégé of James Cameron as second unit director of “Avatar”) are going to die shortly. Some are in denial at first, but based on what they observe of one another, they become convinced that despite the youth that most enjoy, they’ve had it. In a break from the concepts of the previous “Final Destination” films, there is one way that a person can cheat death: that is if he or she kills someone, thereby getting an allowance to survive as long as the murder victim would have lived.

“Final Destination 5” has been so well thought out by the studio that even the opening credits are a pleasure to watch, the names of cast and crew punctuated by a kaleidoscope of images made all the more penetrating by 3D technology. The opening scene, as gripping as that which set the initial “Final Destination” in motion, finds one member of a group of friends and co-workers envisioning a tragedy. In the first “Final Destination,” a young collegian taking a flight to Europe seems to doze off, during which interval he sees the aircraft going down. He leaves the plane with a disgruntled faculty adviser who is quite annoyed about missing the trip only to find that the vision is horribly correct. The plane bursts into flame, shattering the floor-to-ceiling glass enveloping the airport waiting room. This time, a group of corporate workers are traveling to a weekend retreat on a bus when Sam has hallucinations of the imminent collapse of the bridge, with the demise of his colleagues and scores of automobiles.

Filmed exquisitely by Brian Pearson in Vancouver to stand in for New York, Quale’s picture, scripted with plentiful dashes of humor by Eric Heisserer, is a gem of a story expensively dramatized by stunning visual effects under a team supervised by Ariel Velasco Shaw. Following Sam’s vision of tragedy, he gets his group off the bus to safety, but not before a host of hair-raising near-deaths. The survival of the group is to be temporary because, as Bludworth (Tony Todd), a coroner who appears at the funeral of the dead people, warns,”Death does not like to be cheated.” The audience need not even guess the order of upcoming deaths as that will follow the pattern in Sam’s hallucinations.

Now, these folks have everything to live for, which makes their violent ends particularly tragic. Most particularly, Sam, working in a corporation under boss Dennis (comedian David Koechner), enjoys the company of his girlfriend Molly (Emma Bell). His heart is set on becoming a chef, and is now serving as an apprentice in a glitzy restaurant with an offer of a job in Paris, which he refuses to take as that would threaten his relationship with his g.f. Nathan (Arlen Escarpeta) is just four years out of college and is already a floor supervisor, much to the consternation of Roy, the union leader with 15 years’ experience. Candice (Ellen Wroe) is a gymnast, perhaps on her way to represent her country at a future Olympics. Olivia (Jacqueline MacInnes Wood) looks forward to laser eye surgery, while Isaac (P.J. Bryne), the group comic but the guy you’ll steer clear of at parties, looks forward to a series of erotic massages at a local emporium. Peter, (Miles Fisher, who resembles a younger Tom Cruise), however, is busy looking depressed and ready to explode following the death of his girlfriend, Candice.

Suffice it to say that each of the doomed will die; that’s a given. The suspense comes from the ingenious methods that they meet their end, most amusingly by a combination of acupuncture needles and a visit from Buddha. There is nothing far-out about the methods that Death uses to execute each of the folks who think they beat the system. That is what makes for credibility, as any one of these mishaps could be waiting for us as well.

Given the credible story, the awesome effects in 3D, the persuasive acting by the ensemble, “Final Dimension 5” is quite likely to be thought of as the best of the series and a superlative exploitation of the horror genre, or as the French put it more artistically, of Grand Guignol.

Rated R. 92 minutes. (C) 2011 by Harvey Karten Member: NY Film Critics Online

Story – A-

Acting – A-

Technical – A

Overall – A-

final destination 5
final destination 5

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