Directed by David M. Rosenthal
July 13, 2018 (United States)
A man along with his fiancé’s father struggles to reach his pregnant fiancé during a disaster.
How It Ends could be best described as a road trip apocalypse film. The two male leads and the fact the two central characters hop in the car and go across what is essentially no man’s land make it such.
One thing that struck me was how quickly society devolved in this film. The events of the story only take crazy place across a few days but shortly into the first or second day people are already getting violent and desperate. It only took a few days for the US to go all Mad Max.
An interesting twist to the whole disaster scenarios they never quite explain what is going on. There are some weird looking lights in the sky and the weather is intense but what it is is not exactly clear. We get no radio or television broadcasts talking about the disaster but are rather treated to ham radio broadcasts spouting conspiracy theories. Given what is encountered towards the end of the film though one can make a decent argument that a volcano somewhere erupted and it was massive.
Regardless of the cause the US government moves in quickly and the set up appears to be what you would do during a disaster but that is not well sketched out either. Do they know what the problem is or are they as panicked and clueless as the population they appear to be trying to lockdown?
The two main characters, Will Younger (Theo James) and Tom Sutherland (Forest Whitaker), do not get along. It is the traditional father not liking the daughter’s taste in men but when Will is stranded because of a cancelled flight he leaves with the former Marine as they trek to Seattle. Tom’s attitude towards Will seems to have changed somewhat since the disastrous dinner the previous day.
They cross a brutal landscape with danger at every turn. Along the way they pick up a mechanic named Ricki (Grace Dove) to help them in case their car breaks down in some way. Why she is willing to travel with the two is a little fuzzy other than she really does not want to be where she is. Her motivation appears to be nothing more than to escape from a life that has gotten worse since the power grid and just about all of civilization has collapsed.
How It Ends is more about the characters than it is about the disaster or them surviving it. We see the relationship build between Will and Tom and how the difficult decisions they must make to survive and continue their journey changes them. Tom is less of a jerk and more of a negotiator than originally presented. He is pragmatic. The somewhat meek Will becomes cold and willing to kill. Ricki who is head strong and adventurous breaks because of events.
The relationship between Tom and Will I bought. Tom came off as a father that did not care too much for his daughter’s boyfriend. I got the feeling he thought she could do better. Will was the boyfriend trying to figure out why he was not good enough. I however had a little trouble buying into the relationship between Will and Tom’s daughter Sam (Kat Graham). It felt like he was doing what he should rather than doing it because he cared about her.
Another complaint I have about How It Ends is the ending. Ironic perhaps. Will gets to Sam and realizes that something bad is coming so he quickly gathers her up in his vehicle and they start racing from what looks like a pyroclastic flow close behind them. One could safely assume that they are going to die within minutes since pyroclastic flows can move between 62 mph and 430 mph.
That kind of makes all the events of the film-all the death and all the killings and even the death of the father along the way because of injuries sustained near the prison-pointless. I do not mind a downer ending but an ending where everybody clearly dies after everything just grates on me. It feels to me like my time and becoming invested in the stories and characters was wasted.
Having said that the bulk of the film is good. It is well acted and tense and foreboding. Director David M. Rosenthal does a good job with creating atmosphere in a script written by Brooks McLaren. But like I said where it fails though is the end. Leave fates ambiguous and not certain. Do not put them in a situation of certain death.
How It Ends is a good film weakened by the ending. Having said that I will give this a hesitant watch it!