Director: David M. Rosenthal
Screenplay: Brooks McLaren
Starring: Theo James, Forest Whitaker, Kat Graham, Grace Dove
Runtime: 113 Minutes
Based on the Hollywood Black List screenplay from Brooks McLaren, How It Ends sees a desperate man, Will (Theo James), try to return home to his pregnant fiancée Sam (Kat Graham) after a mysterious apocalyptic event turns everything to chaos. All while accompanied by his partner's father (Forest Whitaker).
The disaster genre – especially where it concerns the end of the world – can be used to explore themes such as morality, inhumanity and how social constructs of law and order can break down when the world that is known has ceased to be. Or they can be the explosive spectacle of destructive vistas and landscapes.
This film tries to have it both ways but comes up short in both departments. It burns through the checklist so fast that many of them don’t even linger beyond a scene or two. The core conflict seems to be that between hardened military veteran Whitaker and his low opinion of proposed son-in-law to be James. A generational gap that must only be bridged by James fulfilling the markers of masculine dominance by taking action and violence in tow in order to survive.
Director David M. Rosenthal shows us some admittedly pretty images with decent visual effects as they cross the country into the danger zone of the unexplained cataclysm, and the opening scenes showing the dawn of the catastrophe as seen through power outages, news broadcasts and panic make it interesting, but the characters and actors are trapped with a structure that just shuffles them down banal and repeated encounters with variations on men in trucks chasing them.
The sole interesting aspect arrives mid-film in the form of Grace Dove as Ricki, a Shuswap actress who informs her auto mechanic with some depth concerning not only her difficulties coping with violence, but also her race, as she brings up the fact that the US military helicopters are named after Native American terms. But she quickly exists and we’re stuck again with James and Whitaker wasting their time, and frankly not showing much of their best work.
To be honest, the only takeaway from How It Ends is that its title so aptly describes its being. The ending sneaks around without warning and doesn’t actually resolve a thing that has been set up. How the disaster occurred may not matter, but how the story ends certainly should.