Netflix's How It Ends Review
More post-apocalyptic Netflix thrills
Continuing their trend of providing exceptional value for money but still little better than average original films, the post-apocalyptic thriller How It Ends is a solid midweek night-in movie.Netflix hasn't really had an exceptional release since Annihilation, churning out regular - almost weekly - original film releases from acclaimed directors with big stars attached, and delivering stylish, good quality productions that simply aren't as good as they should be. Sure, considering the cost of a Netflix subscription, it's great value for money - viewers really shouldn't complain in that respect - but they're still just shiny TV movies.
From last month's sci-fi thriller Tau to the yakuza thriller The Outsider; from Moon director Duncan Jones' highly anticipated Mute to the crime drama Calibre; from the appalling Cloverfield Paradox to the more engaging noir thriller Small Time Crime, it's been a busy time for Netflix but also a case of quantity over quality. Many of the productions simply felt unfinished - nice ideas like those in Tau or, more prominently, Mute, which were hobbled by poor editing and a lack of internal polish (they look shiny, but the scripts are all over the place).
A tense but curiously unfinished post-apocalyptic road movie.
It's not been long since Netflix delivered the surprisingly competent Martin Freeman post-apocalyptic zombie drama, Cargo, and here they return to the same kind of landscape - sans zombies - for How It Ends, a tense but curiously unfinished post-apocalyptic road movie thriller that has some nice ideas and plenty of eventful moments, but doesn't really go anywhere.
Once you get past that fact, it can be enjoyed in the moment, providing thrills in its gritty redneck portrait, as paranoia sets in and travelling across the changed territories proves deadly. In terms of apocalypse, it's kind of like a middle chapter between Mad Max and Mad Max: The Road Warrior, charting the moment where the world goes mad.
Theo James's lawyer is having a baby with the daughter of ex-soldier Forest Whitaker (Rogue One, Black Panther, Arrival), an untrusting sort who doesn't like the young buck one bit. But when the earth literally shakes, and all communications go down, the two band together to travel the 2000 miles across the country to try and find the girl they both love.
Film Studios really miss a beat by not having heavyweight actors like Whitaker lead a vehicle like this; it would be a perfect little post-apocalyptic Taken-style affair for the veteran to undertake; not particularly costly and likely a little gem of a thriller, as Whittaker's combat-trained dad does whatever it takes to get to find his daughter.
Netflix haven't broken their pattern of aiming for perfectly acceptable adequacy.
Instead we get the charisma vacuum that is Theo James, whose blank non-acting is all the more painfully obvious opposite someone with skills (at least in the Divergent series he was amidst people of the largely the same calibre), whilst Whitaker literally takes a back-seat. The journey is a long one, and the various ambushes and taut standoffs are well-realised, as the country falls apart and people start to turn on one another under the guise of survival, but it's a hefty near two-hour ride to endure only to reach something of an abortive conclusion, one which makes you wonder whether this was either the first chapter in an intended franchise or, more likely, the pitch for a pilot episode to a TV series which got converted into a Netflix Original project.
Either way, it's an enjoyable bit of relatively thrilling midweek entertainment, if you don't fancy going out, playing in 4K Ultra HD with Dolby Vision for those capable, an added benefit despite the fact that the film seldom really showcases anything dynamic, at least until the final act. Whitaker does elevate the piece, but he also proves something of a curse, as he reminds you of what this film could have been had it been focussed on him instead.
Certainly Netflix haven't broken their pattern of aiming for perfectly acceptable adequacy, but it's not as if Sky Cinema are doing any better with films like The Hurricane Heist and the solid but still flawed Anon. We can but hope that films like Sky's upcoming thrillers Final Score, which could provide Die Hard-in-a-stadium thrills at least comparable to modern day incarnation of Van Damme's enjoyable Sudden Death; the noir thriller Serenity with Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway and Diane Lane, and Netflix's own The Irishman, a Scorsese gangster epic with an all-star cast including De Niro, Pacino and Pesci, raise the bar for expectations when it comes to original streaming service productions.
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