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The Final Patient
(2005)

Director: Jerry Mainardi  
Cast:
Bill Cobbs, Matthew Borish, Guy Boyd, Jason Scott Campbell


A lot of times it appears it would be great to have godly powers. Even if you just had one kind of supernatural power, it would mean that you would be superior to everyone around you, and you could possibly use the power to be the head of the crowd. But if you think about it long and hard, there seem to be disadvantages that would very likely happen if you were to have some kind of supernatural power. Let's say you had super strength, for example. Sure, it would help you open stubborn jars and help you in bar fights. But would you be able to control your strength? Say you were doing something simple, like kicking a ball. Because of your super strength, it's quite possible that without care, you could kick that ball far beyond the moon's orbit. With all that strength ready to be unleashed by your body, some people with the power of super strength might find they have to remind themselves to restrain their strength many times during each day, which could be extremely taxing to the mind. How about the power of flight? On first thought, that would seem to be nice. But when you think about it more, it could prove to be quite difficult to keep the ability private. If you flew in a public area, people would probably see you, and unless you flew with a disguise, you could be overwhelmed with curiosity seekers on short notice. Then how about the ability to move very fast, like the superhero The Flash? That also seems a safe power to have at first. But I once read from one source that claimed that the ability to move extremely quickly would be hazardous if you didn't have that invisible protective aura around your body that The Flash reportedly has. What I read claimed that if you moved fast enough, you would generate a lot of heat, and if you moved at a high enough speed, you might find yourself engulfed in flames, bringing yourself to an end even quicker than your movements.

There is one power that I'm pretty sure many people wish they would have - the power to live forever. At first, there seem to be many advantages for someone who has achieved the ability to live forever. It's a way to get rich, for one thing - just save a lot of examples of popular culture from the era you are living in now, wait several decades, then sell them at extraordinary prices. And during the l-o-n-g journey ahead, you would get to experience many new inventions and conveniences than you would do in a standard lifetime. But I've learned over the years that living forever would actually be an awful fate. A while ago, I came across an article on the Internet that pointed out several bad things that would happen to someone that was living forever. One example was getting trapped somewhere. What if you were in the jungle and got caught in a pit of quicksand? You would be sucked to the bottom and you would stay there until the world came to an end, and by then you would probably be a blubbering sack of insanity. Another likelihood that was pointed out by the same article was the fact that you would have to keep your extended life a secret. If the powers that be found out that you were unable to die, they would be very interested and would do everything in their power to crack the secret you have inside of you, not just limited to probes going into certain orifices in your body. A third problem that would come up for someone living forever would be what would slowly but surely happen to their brain. Your brain can only hold so much information, though in a normal lifetime your brain capacity is usually enough. If you were living forever, your brain would eventually get clogged up with enough useless information to make remembering anything else difficult, if not impossible.

I've personally thought of some other ways that living forever would suck. Take your body, for example. Even if you are a health nut and exercise every day, certain parts of your body could still slowly deteriate over the decades. Sometimes joints in the body get worn out despite a healthy lifestyle, meaning you could possibly find yourself needing a wheelchair or scooter to get around for the rest of your unending life. And then as the decades continue to go by, the rest of your body The Final Patientcould wear out, leaving you with a conscious mind but a body you can't move any part of at all. Then there is the fact that billions of years from now, the sun will enter a red giant phase. If mankind has not perfected interstellar travel by then (that is, if mankind still exists by then), you'll be stuck on a slowly heating up Earth. I think by now I've made it clear that living forever would suck. But we still get fictional stories in popular culture about people who have found a so-called fountain of youth. In past stories I've read and past movies I've watched about the subject, the writers don't seem conscious of the facts I brought up earlier. When I got the DVD of The Final Patient - which deals with this subject - I wondered if for once someone would really take a serious examination of the idea of living forever. The events of the movie circle around two recent medical school graduates, Willy (Campbell) and Cameron (Alex Feldman), who are taking a road trip that includes going through the town Willy grew up in. Stopping there for a bite to eat, they hear a story about one doctor Daniel Green (Cobbs, Night At The Museum), who earlier in the day had singlehandedly performed the superheroic feat of lifting a tractor that a child was pinned under. With Willy knowing Dr. Green in the past, the two doctors decide they should go meet Dr. Green to see if they can find out how the doctor lifted the tractor. Dr. Green invites the two young men for dinner, and during the night Dr. Green eventually reveals a secret - he has come across an ancient Chinese formula that with some personal adjustments has given Dr. Green super strength, immunity to illness, and longevity despite being in his senior years.

Even though that above plot synopsis is pretty brief, I still have a pretty good idea of what you are thinking at this point, that being, "That sounds very familiar, even if I can't immediately think of where I've seen this plot before." It does indeed sound like a straightforward telling of an old plot. As it turns out, it's not told in a straighforward way, which is one of the big problems of The Final Patient. But before getting into what doesn't make this movie succeed, I'd like to give credit where credit is due, and mention some good things that can be found in the movie. This was a low budget movie; reportedly, the filmmakers did not spend more than $500,000 to make The Final Patient. But it looks surprisingly good for the most part. In just about every scene, the camerawork is extremely professional. The movie has been photographed in a way that results in the colors being unusually strong and vibrant for a cheapie. The camerawork also has some techniques being used that you'd usually associate with big budget movies, such as the steadicam technique as well as crane shots. Another way that the movie doesn't show its poverty row budget are with the locations chosen. Obviously shot in actual places (the interior of a hospital, a pub) instead of cheap sets, these locations give the movie some authenicity. And there are little touches here and there that give the movie some additional flavor, such as when during the long night at the doctor's house, a thunderstorm brews up, and the sight of the lightning and the sound of the thunder give the movie some welcome atmosphere.

Other positive things to be found in The Final Patient include the acting. The acting for the most part isn't exceptional, but the mostly amateur cast does a serviceable job for the most part. There are several moments when they real nail it, and it seems that we are really spying on real people having real conversations. The best performer in the cast is Cobbs. He has the challenging task of not coming across as ludicrous when his character does stuff like talk about details concering the ancient secret formula, or later when he challenges one of the young doctors to an arm wrestling match to prove his strength. It's a nice understated performance, but it, along with that previously mentioned positive stuff, is not enough to save the movie. Most of the blame for the movie's failure can be pointed at the script. The first problem comes in the first few minutes of the movie. After a couple of minutes showing one of the characters at a hospital, along with dialogue that mentions the fates of some of the other characters, the movie then jumps back six days, where almost the rest of the movie takes place. I think that I have mentioned before in other reviews that I am not a fan of the storytelling technique where most of a story is told in flashback. In this particular case, with us being told what happened to some of the characters right at the start, there are no surprises to be found when we are subsequently shown the events that happened before the movie's first scene. Even before the final few minutes of the movie, when the movie returns to the character at the hospital, it becomes clear that there is absolutely no reason why the story had to be told in this way. The movie could have easily been told straight from start to finish with no real rewriting needed, and the fates of these characters would have been a surprise.

So The Final Patient is woefully lacking in surprises because of this storytelling technique. But the script has some additional problems that further sink the movie. Remember two paragraphs ago, when you were thinking that you had witnessed sometime in your past this same basic story? I'll tell you right now where you have seen it. You have seen it in television shows like The Twilight Zone, you have seen it in horror anthology movies, and you have seen it in short stories. That last medium - short stories - should have given you a clue as to the movie's biggest problem. The story of The Final Patient is one that most of the time has proven best told in a short format, not something as large as a feature length movie. Well, maybe it could have been expanded, but that would mean additional plot threads and additional characters. The Final Patient just sticks to the basics found in those past short retellings, and as a result it moves extremely slowly, especially because the filmmakers stretched the running time to a whopping one hundred minutes. This means when the expected plot turn of the two doctors looking for the formula for their selfish needs, after the doctor has told them all the details, doesn't happen until about eighty minutes has passed. Before that happens, we are treated to talk - a lot of talk. Every opportunity the movie has to stop the action to have the characters talk endlessly, the movie takes it. And despite all this talk, there are several plot threads (such as what is causing the doctor's wife's mysterious illness) that are never explained or resolved properly. As a result, the movie is extremely boring and will have you repeatedly telling the movie to get on with it. What this movie really needed was the input of a doctor - not a medical doctor, but a script doctor.

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See also: Crawlspace, An Enemy Of The People, Sunchaser

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