How It Ends
Movie Distributed By: Netflix
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
When you watch movies on Netflix, they have an algorithm that takes what youíve already watched and figures out new films and television shows to recommend to you. It was that system that led Netflix to recommend a new disaster film called How It Ends. The plot of the film sounded interesting enough, so I decided to check it out.
As How It Ends begins, we are introduced to Will (Theo James), an attorney, and his girlfriend Sam (Kat Graham) as they watch the doctor perform a sonogram, receiving the news that they will soon have a baby boy. Will travels to Chicago to ask Samís parents for their daughter's hand in marriage, a task that makes both of them nervous. Samís father, Tom (Forest Whitaker), is a former Marine officer, set in his ways, who isnít very fond of Will. Though he tries to charm both Tom and his wife Paula (Nicole Ari Parker), he only ends up angering Tom and is asked to leave.
The following day, as he relates what happened at dinner to Sam, they both hear a distant rumble coming from her end of the phone line. The reception suddenly becomes sketchy and Sam tells Will that something is wrong and she is scared before the line disconnects. At the airport, Will discovers that all flights west have been cancelled. Suddenly, the power goes out. Will, unable to reach Sam on the phone and not knowing what else to do, goes back to Samís parentís place where he discovers Tom and Paula are planning to leave. Paula is going to stay with a friend while Tom reveals he is going to find Sam. Will accompanies him.
As the two travel halfway across the country, not knowing what they will find when they get there, they discover that their world has changed greatly. With the loss of power and communications, it has become utter chaos. No one knows what has happened on the West Coast Ė the military they meet along the way are rather tight-lipped, but they witness trains traveling west with army vehicles and more, hinting at heavy deployment. Could this be war or a natural disaster? No one can be sure, but one thing is certain Ė the world as Tom and Will know it has collapsed leaving in its place a dystopian universe in which survival depends on who is craftier and has the faster draw.
The concept of How It Ends is pretty interesting when you think about it. Could the title mean how the world ends or could it mean how humanity ends? Could it just be the destruction of the United States or could it be an end to morals and civility brought on by technological resources we have become too reliant on? Thing is, we never really learn what it means and thatís the problem. The movieís ending left me rather pissed off to tell you the truth, but Iíll get to that in a minute.
First, Iíd like to say that I enjoyed the adversarial attitude between Tom and Will. Forest Whitaker is always a pleasure to watch, no matter what role he takes on and his role as the no nonsense ex-military man on a mission to find his daughter is excellent. Theo James is definitely believable in the naÔve boyfriend role who accompanies Tom despite any survival training simply because he loves Sam and wants to find her. Along the way, we meet Ricki, a Native American auto mechanic who accompanies the two on their journey until her conscience gets the better of her after a particularly disastrous encounter on the road. Grace Dove offers viewers the best emotional performances in this film. In fact, it would seem that she is the only character in the entire film who is unwilling to give up on her sense of morality despite what seems like the end of the world approaching. Hers was an all too short appearance in this film.
The special effects were decent in this film Ė the storms, the explosions, the disaster that is Seattle Ė these were all done rather convincingly. And that score by Atli Orvarsson was amazingly dramaticÖa terrifically dramatic, piano-based musical score that would work perfectly as a stand alone album.
I think the mistake here was in making How It Ends a film rather than a television series. The first few days are rather long, offering us glimpses into the change in the terrain, the climate, the effect of loss of electricity and communication has on people and the treachery and dangers of travel during this period of doubt and confusion. Then, suddenly we begin rushing into things. Willís travels are less impeded and he is able to reach his destination way to quickly, only to be redirected and even when he does reach his final destination, we never really discover what it was that happened to the West Coast to cause earthquakes, crazy storms, horrendous fires and more. We reach the end of the film way too soon and basically have learned nothing except that when the going gets rough, Americans lose all sense of morality and decencyÖor at least thatís what this movie seems to portray.
The ending is so open-ended that I found myself yelling, ďTHATíS IT?!!! SERIOUSLY?!!!Ē The first hour and a half of the film were great, building you up to what you think is going to be an awesome climax and then you find yourself robbed, hanging onto a cliffhanger that you know wonít be resolved because How It Ends just wasnít good enough to necessitate a sequel. Even if it was, what would you name it? How It Really Ends? How It Could Have Ended? We Should Have Ended This Before We Started? Bummer! Thatís two hours of my life I canít get back.