Bill (Denis Leary) wakes up in an institution. He is told by his doctor, Ann (Hope Davis), that he is only there for observation. He can leave whenever he makes the decision to accept reality. He is gripped by delusional fantasies that he was frozen by some government agency and is awaiting a "final" lethal injection. He doesn't know what his crime was, but can't shake the notion that he won't live much longer.
As one session with Ann melds with the next, Bill begins to understand that his amnesia is interfering with the possibility of release. Still, this realization adds stress to his already warped mind, causing images between the past and present to collide. Watching him struggle through varying streams of previous faults, responsible Ann becomes compelled to bend rules in exchange for a quicker recovery.
Bill cooperates with Ann's patient nature, while still testing how much freedom he will be allowed, almost like a child having to learn rules again. It's poignantly depressing the first time he's allowed outside of his room, requiring manhandling by 3 security officers when he won't give up the remote control. He is quick to throw sarcasm at the rest of the cold staff. This isn't the patented Leary sarcasm from the days of MTV commercials either, but simply statements aimed at provoking assistance out of those around him.
Sounds almost like a play, two people just talking for two hours, mostly in one room. It's somewhat paced like theater as well, each talkative scene giving just enough of a seed through interaction to move to the next section. What keeps this film from coming off too much like a play are sudden, fleeting flashbacks and the combination of these glimpses with the present. There is just enough information given to draw yet more questions about our protagonist's plight. They also, thankfully, fulfill an escapist need to leave the walls of the sickly confining room. The memories rush in unexpectedly, maintaining unpredictability throughout.
The bare settings work for the overall feel of this psychological journey. They allow the trust between patient and therapist to grow naturally, instead of confidence being forced in lieu of getting to the next plot point. The claustrophobia is particularly effective for Ann. It seems as if she never leaves the hospital, and this motivates her unorthodox tactics towards Bill.
For a dialogue-heavy film, and one based in a therapeutic setting no less, the script never overwhelms with extraneous exposition or overly emotive conversation. Nobody is shooting for an Oscar here; the whole point is to relay a human story.
Denis Leary is outstanding in a role many would not associate with his talent. This is a man with notorious wit who excitedly sang "I'm an Asshole" to sold out crowds nationwide. Here he is a humble, confused, floundering Bill. Even his most heightened moments are quietly underplayed so that his coping mechanisms leave you in sympathy regardless of his slowly surfacing weaknesses.
Unfortunately, Final is also a prime example of the problems inherent in shooting on digital video. There are many scenes in which focus is cleared up mid-shot due to the movement of characters that the camera is following. Some of this can be excused as seeing the world through Bill's eyes, but the constancy of it can still be visually annoying.
Kudos to Campbell Scott on his first solo directorial project. He aptly places these all-too-human characters in a complex situation that is both compelling and entertaining. He unveils the story with an admirable mixture of exterior observation and internalized difficulty. Needless to say the ending, which I won't give away, is worth waiting two hours to get to.