*** WARNING!!! POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT!!!***
How It Ends (2018) stars Theo James, Forest Whitaker, Kat Graham, Grace Dove and Nicole Ari Parker, in a thriller about a mysterious disaster that turned most of the country into a post-apocalyptic war zone.
Will Younger (James), an up and coming lawyer and Tom Sutherland (Whitaker), his wealthy father in-law to be, have to make their way from Chicago to the west coast, Seattle, to find his pregnant fiancée (Graham).
In the beginning, How It Ends starts off with a lot of promise of being a different from other disaster films that has graced the screens previously. Maybe this wouldn’t be the typical kind of film where two people, who are at odd with each other, setting out on a road trip to reunite with a loved one in a dire situation. I was holding out hope until the two men, who are seemingly polar opposites, take a road trip, driving through the worst parts of the unknown, encountering one tense situation after another, and a plot holes here and there along the way to save a loved one.
The action starts when Samantha calls Will to inform him that he has overslept and was about to miss his flight. As the conversation progresses, they talk about the results of the previous night’s dinner with his future in-laws that turn out to be its own disaster. Samantha suddenly notices something is not right and loud noises are heard, the call ends. Will rushes to the airport.
Will gets to the airport in time to see flights in and out of the airport quickly and systematically get cancelled.
Breaking news is on a big screen at a bar in the terminal, and they talk about a record heatwave causing fatalities in Europe. You never really get a grasp or any clear idea of what the actual disaster was or what caused it, just that it started off the coast of Southern California and it triggered a cascade effect with the power grid across the country.
In desperation, Will returns to Samantha’s parents’ building and reaches out to Sutherland, who has a strong military background, and who is apparently already packing for the road trip, while F-22 Raptors buzz their penthouse.
The road trip begins and they have their first run in with three local misfits at a gas station. Sutherland arrives and uses gun diplomacy to send the road jerks scurrying to the woods. Will complains about Sutherland having a gun, Sutherland then lectures Will about being too nice in the post-world era. He did have a point, if they stole the car then what would they do next? It would not be like a normal carjacking, they would have just been stranded at a gas station outside Chicago with no taxi ride home or police help.
The road trip continues and they have another run in, this time with a crazed felon in a stolen trooper cruiser. Sutherland intervenes again.
They meet up with Ricki, a young Native American woman who runs a garage and who reluctantly decides to help repair their damaged vehicle after she sees them tow it in with the police cruiser. She fixes their car and they somehow convince her to tag along with them. The trio continue to make their way to Washington state.
You do get bits and pieces of incidents that lend clues to what happened as the movie and the road trip progresses. Ricki’s compass doing a crazy spin and not pointing true north, a crazy lighting storm like no other, a crashed military transport, a crashed military train and random radio reports and vague eyewitness accounts only add to the mystery. It’s like finding a few key pieces to a puzzle, but you’re still missing enough puzzle pieces to not give you a clear picture of what it is.
Whitaker has his usual fine performance. Most of the rest of the cast gave a good performance as well. The problem for me wasn’t the onscreen talent, it wasn’t the cinematography or the special effects, it wasn’t the editing, all those elements were top notch in my opinion.
It was story execution in some key areas of the movie. Will did learn lessons from Sutherland and you see his character adapt from a nice guy, preppie young lawyer to a person who had to survive by any means necessary, but still maintains his humanity, which he shows when he meets up with a family traveling north.
I was a bit confused by the part of a campfire conversation Will had with one of the later characters who gave his theory about what had happened to cause the disaster. The character’s ideas could have been taken as just another conspiracy theory, but Will got angry instead of just ignoring it as mere misinformation. I could chalk his reaction to an overall mistrust of this character, a mistrust which was justified a short time later.
My biggest problem with this movie was the fact that it didn’t conclude as most feature do, it didn’t end with an open question or an unexpected change in destiny, it just stopped producing, almost like the director said, “okay, I’ve had enough. Shut everything down.”
Bottom line: How It Ends is a watchable, interesting disaster film, it is watchable until you’re unable to watch it any further. The film let’s you down at the end because it just shuts itself down, leaving you with a ton of unanswered questions, the most important one is, “Why?”
How It Ends is on Netflix as of July 13, 2018.