When all is settled, pun somewhat intended, let’s hope the forces behind #RemakeTheLastJedi will have some spare millions for/to #RemakeHowItEnds. Other than being a genuine act of service, no one involved will face the wrath of the fans since there won’t be any. If The Snowman replaces its winter atmosphere with aridity, or ice with ash, How It Ends shows up. Should a film finds itself comparable to last year’s crime, you are nail’s-head correct that it could use a touch-up in the form of an overhaul.
How It Ends somehow generates an enticing enough first impression. While FaceTime-ing his expecting wife-to-be Samantha (Kat Graham, focal-turned-parenthetical) in Chicago, attorney Will (Theo James, stony) hears rumbling on the other end — Seattle — and sees her panicking. Signal then vanishes, power goes kaput and flights are cancelled. Everywhere. Samantha’s veteran father Tom (Forest Whitaker, stonier), who despises her daughter’s man’s existence, then hears the news from Will. Since dad’s worried and fiancé’s grounded, they hatch a plan: that they should drive for ~2,000 miles to see if their baby is safe.
Can we have Vanessa Carlton’s A Thousand Miles as cruise music for the 2.0 version? Might be too obvious, cringeworthy or outright laughable (making their way through the states, speeding fast, society’s wacked and the world’s down), but at least there is now something that can stir our insides. Right now the trip has no melody to detect because Tom’s surliness is a tune repellent and David M. Rosenthal’s direction is firmly one-note. Straight from the playbook of The Snowman Tomas Alfredson, Rosenthal doesn’t attempt foreshadowing, build-up, subvert or anything cinematic; it’s just presenting images without rhyme or reason, to have something laid out in front of our eyes. The story has a clear-cut destination, but the technique makes the journey there and there itself aimless while watching and pointless when done. It won’t be bothersome if the guys and their Cadillac return to where they started like Carlton and her speedy piano; a film, after lifting us up for however long it is, will bring us back down, if not our whole self then, as the littlest trace of courtesy, just half a toe. Still, from where How It Ends is standing, the latter is too, too much to ask for.
To think that the script, conceived by Brooks McLaren, notched a spot on the 2010 Black List! The mainly single-location (in Tom’s car) conceit demands innovation, creativity to juice out drama and revelations, which perhaps is the reason why the project draws attention in the first place, but what we’re seeing on screen is not a showcase of it. At all. Chalk it up to outdatedness or desensitization to E.L.E.s (read your tweets, check what’s liked) is reasonable, though the root here is Rosenthal’s inability to translate the words into equivalent images. Emotional anchors in the forms of Ricki (Grace Dove, the cast’s liveliest and also parenthetical), a Native American mechanic the boys persuaded to tag along to keep their car tip-top, Meg (Kerry Bishé, another parenthetical role), Will’s friend who’s afraid her husband is gone, and Samantha herself are majorly affected by this. Try as Ricki might to express her horror at witnessing humanity’s darkness, we feel nothing. Tears are pouring down Meg’s face, yet we won’t be swayed much, thanks to Will’s inert reaction. McLaren doesn’t hide the fact that “disconnection” is a recurring aspect in How It Ends, yet surely he doesn’t want it to be the project’s defining trait? The longer the film goes on, the more obvious James and Whitaker’s draw toward “phoning in” gets. And if that doesn’t get you upset, wait until the ending — if you can call it that.
As is Dion Beebe’s case in The Snowman, the d.p. is the only person involved in the production with something of value to offer. Doesn’t matter if it the sun is fully present, partial or absent, Peter Flinckenberg always ensures Tom’s vehicle, a gray Cadillac CTS, is the centerpiece. He has the memo that this is a Netflix Original and not a Caddy commercial, right? Regardless, demand for the ride should go up, but it’s worth asking the dealer beforehand that if it will have trouble catching up with a Honda Insight. Too ridiculous to comprehend? Let’s put that on the list for the revamp that will answer the title’s question with anything other than “with a whimper” from the footage and “with a yawn” from the viewer.