Since the original "Final Destination" in 2000, the franchise has been running with a tried-and-true formula: A teenager/young adult has a premonition of a deadly accident and manages to warn a small group of classmates/friends/co-workers. They avoid the accident but start to die — in the originally intended order. Each movie installment has had a thinly veiled attempt at a story, with the central calamity occurring on an airplane, highway, roller coaster and a speedway.
"Final Destination 5," the latest movie, brings the disaster to a suspension bridge, and it manages to add in a few twists to prevent the franchise from getting stale. Sam Lawton (Nicholas D'Agosto) is an unsuccessful salesman at Presage Paper, but he indulges in his real passion by moonlighting as a sous chef at a French restaurant every evening. Sam and his girlfriend, Molly Harper (Emma Bell), board a bus for a business retreat along with his friend and office manager, Peter Friedkin (Miles Fisher), Peter's gymnast girlfriend Candice (Ellen Wroe), token hottie Olivia Castle (Jacqueline MacInnes Wood), nerdy womanizer Isaac Turner (P.J. Byrne), plant manager Nathan Sears (Arlen Escarpeta) and their stereotypically clueless boss Dennis (David Koechner).
As the bus slowly crosses the suspension bridge, construction crews are busily cutting away massive chunks of concrete. One of those cuts compromises the structural integrity of the bridge, and it starts crumbling into the ocean — but not before claiming the lives of the employees in amazingly gory ways. Our beloved paper pushers die because of a sailboat, car, bridge cable, tar, metal rods and sheet metal.
However, since Sam managed to escort his co-workers from the bus before the bridge collapsed, they live to see death another day. The deaths are definitely more gruesome and suspenseful than in the previous film, "Final Destination 4," which bordered on comedic. After watching this movie, you'll never think of gymnastics, acupuncture or laser eye surgery in the same way.
Up to this point, it's a fairly formulaic "Final Destination" film. According to the series canon, if you manage to escape death's clutches, it skips over you and moves on to the next person on the list. "Final Destination 5" introduces the idea of killing someone else to "switch" places. Do you have it in you to kill somebody? If so, who would you kill? It's an interesting dilemma that invites the audience to ponder what we'd do if we were in their shoes.
The cast of young twentysomethings is pretty forgettable. We remember D'Agosto from "Heroes," and he's a fine supporting actor, but he's not convincing as the lead actor. Bell was good in "The Walking Dead," but she's the perfect match for D'Agosto here, as they comprise a forgettable leading couple. Fisher is reminiscent of a couch-jumping Tom Cruise, but there isn't a good connotation to be had there. His eyebrows also look like the love children of Groucho Marx and Zachary Quinto, and they will draw your gaze each time he's on-screen. Wroe is not a very memorable character, but her death was definitely the most noteworthy of the bunch. Wood, the token hottie, steals every scene she's in with her disaffected Megan Fox shtick. Koechner is good comic relief as the goofy boss.
As for Agent Block (Courtney B. Vance) and Coroner Bludworth (Tony Todd), these two thespian pros have been acting longer than some of the cast members have been alive. They aren't firing on all cylinders in this film, and don't need to be. It probably required all of their willpower to say some of the lines with a straight face.
The dialogue is pretty weak, but that's to be expected when the story has been rehashed as many times as this one has. You don't go to horror films expecting to hear Shakespearean sonnets, though, so this isn't really an issue.
We were a little nervous about director Steven Quale, as this is his first major feature film, and he's tackling 3-D filming on top of that. He was the second unit director for James Cameron's "Avatar," so we really had nothing to worry about. He does a good job of conveying the more ominous tone of the film and building up the nervous tension for the next violent death.
Given Quale's pedigree, it stands to reason that the 3-D in "Final Destination 5" was done really well. It was actually filmed in 3-D, and that's a huge advantage over being converted in post-processing. It is definitely worth the surcharge to see this one in 3-D. The effects in the opening credit sequence alone were better than the 3-D that we've seen in some full-length movies.
There were some minor story details that bothered us, though we couldn't quite figure out why. It's all explained away at the end and wraps up everything in a tidy little bow. This alone elevated the entire film from a warmed-over retread to a movie that's much smarter than it lets on. We can't provide more specifics without giving it away, so we'll just leave it at that.
Movie audiences pay to see the new, gory deaths that the writers have concocted, and on that count, the "Final Destination" series knows how to deliver. "Final Destination 5" isn't revolutionary, and the actors, story and dialogue won't leave any lasting impressions. If you want to see the newest batch of inventive, grisly deaths — and some superb 3-D effects to boot — check out "Final Destination 5."
"Final Destination 5" is rated R and has a running time of 1 hour and 32 minutes. It is showing in 2-D and 3-D.
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