Film Review – How It Ends

DIRECTED BY: David M. Rosenthal

STARRING: Theo James, Forest Whitaker, Kat Graham, Nicole Ari Parker, Grace Dove, Mark O’Brien, Kerry Bishé and Eric Keenleyside

 

SYNOPSIS

When a mysterious disaster turns the country into a war zone, a young lawyer heads west with his future father-in-law to find his pregnant fiancée.

How It Ends focuses on a young lawyer named Will, going to visit his girlfriend’s parents in Chicago to ask their permission to marry their daughter. Upon heading to the airport to travel back to Seattle, a TV news report states that a seismic event has taken place off the west coast of the US before electricity and phone lines get disrupted. He returns back to Sam’s parents house, where he and her father, Tom, decide to travel together on the road to Seattle to get Sam out from whatever is happening out there.

How It Ends is a disaster-adventure that revolves around the story of a lawyer, Will, and his girlfriend, Sam, are a couple living in Seattle that are expecting their first child. Will pays a visit to Sam’s parents in Chicago, her father Tom, a retired US marine, and her mother Paula. Will and Tom don’t get along and get into a heated argument, leading to Will deciding it’s a bad time to raise the prospect of a wedding. As he attempts to travel back to Seattle the next morning, a seismic event knocks off electricity, phone and satellite signals, though learning just before all TV signal is lost that the entire event took place on the west coast of the US.    Will returns back to Sam’s parents house and Tom decides that he’s going to travel by car to Seattle to get his daughter out of whatever is happening on the coast and the two head off in a race against time to get through the country before it’s too late.

 

How It Ends definitely has an interesting premise and the first fifteen minutes definitely set up the rest of the film well enough for me as we get a quick glimpse of Will’s relationship with Sam, as well as his relationship with her parents Tom and Paula. We see how Tom can be hard work with his alpha bravado, seemingly set to belittle Will with every word that even his wife calls him out on it at the dinner table. Once whatever event has happened kicks in, leading to F-22 fighter jets doing fly-bys through the Chicago skyline, leading to the two putting their differences aside and embarking on a road trip to rescue Sam. I will say I thought the arc of Will and Tom’s relationship in the film is one of its better aspects, as a lot of the screen time is taken up by their journey and I thought Forest Whitaker and Theo James were decent as their respective characters. Some of the scenery during their travel from Chicago to Seattle is beautifully capture thanks to Peter Flinckenberg’s cinematography work and some of the set decoration/design looks well done, particularly in the final act.

 

Well the film starts off promising, that promise was gone for me by the films halfway mark as the journey feels like absolute filler, with Will and Tom travelling the road, stop for gas and supplies, meet some people trying to steal their gas or kill them and rinse, repeat. It’s reminiscent of the later seasons of The Walking Dead in terms of storytelling, condensed into an under two-hour feature, and makes for pretty dull viewing. Of the characters that Will and Tom encounter, Ricki (portrayed by Grace Dove) definitely freshens things up, even being ‘hired’ by Tom to join the road trip due to her skills as an auto mechanic, while she makes a commentary on the military adopting Native American names for their range of helicopters, her character is underdeveloped and not given much time to shine and there’s also another character that appears in the final act (portrayed by Mark O’Brien) that feels entirely out of place, let alone a walking cliche, that the final act not only feels predictable but incredibly rushed. The films main downfall however comes down to how it resolves the disaster/event that led to such a very quick post-apocalyptic fallout. There’s hints and theories plotted through the film as to what the event could’ve been. There’s a military cargo train that Will and Tom initially see during the start of their road trip, that they come across derailed later, yet no hint as to what happened, as well as a crashed fighter jet in the middle. Mark O’Brien’s character even discusses his theory and it sounds the most plausible primarily because it’s the only theory we’re given through the film, which is quickly shut down by Will. The film primarily wants the audience to make this film feel more about the characters journey rather than focusing on the actual event itself, but you’ve got to give them something as to what has caused such nationwide chaos. Kat Graham is incredibly underused to the point that she might not even exist at all as she’s just a plot device that probably has a total amount of eight minutes of screen time, while Nicole Ari Parker’s Paula is assumed to be alive and well once we never hear about her again once Will and Tom leave her behind as the two fellas head off to get Sam. Also the films ending may be one of the most anti-climatic endings I’ve seen for a long time. One main character decision, or lack thereof has bothered me since I watched the film a few hours ago. Tom makes some sense in bringing Ricki along for the road trip as she’s a mechanic so if the car breaks down she can help repair it…Tom is carrying a particular injury throughout the course of the film, yet there’s not one moment, one sentence where he asks if there’s a doctor in that particular area that has over a dozen people.

 

VERDICT

How It Ends is a disaster/post-apocalyptic film that focuses more on the characters journey rather than giving answers to what has caused the seismic event and that may leave a sour taste to audiences watching it, along with one of the most abrupt endings to a film I’ve seen in a long time. The film has an interesting premise but it plods along for the longest time, repeating itself in how scenes are set up, that the film feels flat overall. Shame too, as I thought the relationship arc between Will and Tom was decent yet it’s not enough to keep the audience interested. 3/10

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