Reel Reviews | How It Ends

by Charles Kirkland Jr.
For the sake of love, two men make a desperate trip across the country as the world falls apart in the Netflix thriller, How It Ends.

Will Younger (Theo James) is desperately in love with his pregnant girlfriend, Samantha Sutherland (Kat Graham). While in her hometown of Chicago, Will must face the daunting task of asking Samantha’s father, retired Marine Colonel Tom Sutherland (Forest Whitaker) for her hand in marriage while Samantha awaits the news at their home in Seattle. The dinner meeting does not go well. In fact, Will has to be escorted out of the house by Samantha’s mother, Paula (Nicole Ari Parker) after a male ego dust-up. The next morning, as Will is trying to explain himself to Samantha on the phone, there is a large rumbling noise in the background on the Seattle side of the phone call. Samantha says something is happening and she is scared. Suddenly, the phone service goes out. All flights out of Chicago are canceled as Will frantically attempts to get back home. Desperate, Will turns to Tom for assistance and they decide to drive the 2000 miles to get to Samantha. Almost immediately, Tom and Will discover that this is no ordinary road trip but a frenetic journey into the unknown as the country braces for the unthinkable.

Directed by David M. Rosenthal and written by Brooks McLaren (the upcoming Rambo: New Blood), How It Ends is a truly disappointing movie released by Netflix. Although the acting pedigree seems solid with Theo James being a draw from the recent Divergent series opposed by the consummate professional Forest Whitaker, neither of the actors have the ability to rise above this vehicle in which they have been given. James convincingly plays the lawyer forced into the worst of all possible outcomes in having to team up with the gruff military commander Whitaker to save his girlfriend. The problems of the film come from the efforts of the director and writer.

McLaren, in his first effort as a scriptwriter, creates a story that is lacking in depth, poor inconsistency and fails to reward its audience at any time for watching the film. The film suffers from an uninspired and ridiculous script that incorporates elements of the Mel Gibson’s Mad Max and Denzel Washington’s The Book of Eli while attempting to cram in a “buddy-cop” relationship. For instance, when Tom Sutherland receives a serious injury, instead of finding medical assistance on a nearby Native American reservation, they look for a mechanic for the car. Again, when they arrive in a community that has walled itself off from the rest of the country after they are granted access, Will proceeds to take a shower while Tom finds supplies for the car. Not once do they even ask about a doctor. There are other parts of the film that seem just as nonsensical and culminates in a finale that leaves everyone questioning just how this movie ends.

The direction of the movie is poor as well. Rosenthal (A Single Shot, The Perfect Guy) seems to have an affinity to show the movie in low light. It could be understood that he is trying to give the movie some depth and gravity and on the big screen it probably may have worked better, however, on the small screen it just distances the audience from seeing and understanding the characters and the action that is happening. The movie is dull and lifeless and drones on for a way-too-long hour and fifty-three minutes.

This movie is the truest example of the problem with Netflix and their movies. For every Beasts of the Southern Wild and Mudbound, there are five How It Ends that reduce the credibility of the outlet and all the work attached to it. Attached to the same promotion (little to none), there is nothing to give viewers the ability to find the things to watch. Thankfully, it gives us critics plenty to do.

Rated TV-MA, for profanity, violence and gore and mild sex and nudity, How It Ends is a head-scratching, frustrating movie that dully bores and whines and whimpers across the screen. In spite of the talent attached, How It Ends is better off not even starting.

Grade: D-