What starts off feeling like a low-budget drama, How It Ends evolves into a stylistic sci-fi film with some really nice special effects that show off the feature-length’s estimated $20M budget. But the movie is not without its flaws.
Theo James seems almost lifeless as “Will” in this post-apocalyptic adventure – did he ever establish a character before getting on camera? It doesn’t feel like it. James lumbers through scenes, lacks depth, and is just never believable as a man on a mission to save his pregnant fiancé from impending doom.
Forest Whitaker is Forest Whitaker as the goateed “Tom” who sets on a journey with Will, his soon-to-be son-in-law, to find his daughter Samantha. Whitaker rescues several of the scenes from being completely devoid of expression, but there is only so much you can do when the dialogue is itself so banal.
Grace Dove adds a bit of energy as the Native American car mechanic Ricki, and the three make an interesting threesome for an extent of time. But she finds conflict in Tom and Will’s survival methods (played well by Dove) and, overwhelmed with the gravity of the situation, eventually finds her own way.
Kat Graham is convincing as the pregnant Samantha, and although we don’t see much of her she pretty much carries those scenes. We see even less of Nicole Ari Parker as Tom’s wife Paula, which is unfortunate as both women added some life to this often comatose adventure.
How It Ends plays like a short film that was extended to feature length. There were scenes that simply could have been cut, or at least shortened to keep the pace quicker. With the right editing, the one-hour, fifty three-minute film would have been more effective at ninety minutes. But maybe Netflix steers for lengthier content — the longer the program the longer viewers are streaming from the service — and that must be good for stockholders.
The feature also fails to build much suspense. Samantha is pregnant, and presumably in danger, but that isn’t enough to keep viewers on the edge of their seats throughout the journey Tom and Will undertake. They fail to reach her by phone, but the cliche of an interrupted video chat just doesn’t have the same effect it once used to.
What might be a sign of a script that lacks impact is the need to drop F-bombs every other sentence. After the first F’er, the strategy just gets more and more diluted. Not to sound offended, but aren’t there other ways to create intense dialogue? Sometimes it’s not the words that are the problem, it’s how the words are expressed. There are times in the film when it felt more like being at a table reading.
How It Ends begins at a turtle’s pace and drags through many of the scenes, but if you’ve got time to spare this cookie-cutter action flick is worth the “good parts,” especially on a large screen 4k TV.
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