Film - The End of the World: Parts per Billion

Parts per Billion

It's the end of the world as he knows it, and Nate McKenzie feels fine about it. But what about the film Parts Per Billion...

Film fanatics all have their personal favorite type of film, or particular genre, that they frequently gravitate to. You have your SciFi fanboys, Horror hounds, Action junkies, and even the easy-to-please RomCom crowd. Each category has its own merits and its own downfalls. I personally am infatuated with movies about disasters that lead to the demise of Planet Earth and its inhabitants. Whether you want to call them post-Apocalyptic, dystopian, or Doomsday movies (three separate labels in this man's estimation) the general premise is the same: most everyone dies and/or the Earth itself is destroyed. I'm not saying you should read into my fascination as an indication of an burgeoning psychotic break; I'm just saying you wouldn't be wrong if you did.



So I want to take a look at some of the films that cover this morose subject. I have no particular list and no particular time limit in which I want to complete this exercise. So if you have a particular fondness (or disdain) for a film that fits the bill feel free to share! I will check it out and share my thoughts.

Apropos of nothing, I chose to begin this trek with one of the more recent end of the world flicks: Parts Per Billion. When I saw the trailer for Parts Per Billion I was very intrigued. The movie was presented in a vain with the likes of Contagion or Outbreak. A biological force is ravaging the world, causing massive deaths and throwing the world into chaos.

The film starts out strong perpetuating that initial turmoil. Unfortunately, it quickly loses momentum. Although, "loses" isn't the proper word. Momentum is intentionally halted numerous times. If bad tantric sex were a film, it would be this movie. The story is not so much one about the end of the world as it is about the interactions between three couples (whose lives are all intertwined in some fashion or another) in their normal lives, as they lead up to the outbreak, and then as they deal with the personal and world-wide aftermath. Unfortunately, you don't recognize the bait-and-switch until well into viewing.

A look inward at relationships and existential stance on the "meaning of life" is a noble venture, but not when you are intentionally messing with my end of the world scenarios in order to do so. I was hoping for an engrossing foray into a suspenseful world of chaos but what the filmmakers apparently wanted was for you to turn off the movie and go spend time with your significant other. If I had a significant other I may have done just that. The scenes were so erratic that it was hard to follow. There was an attempt at being coy with storylines - at one point I actually said out-loud to my non-existent significant other, "How the hell does he know that?" - but they are muddled in their attempt at being thought-provoking.

With stellar actors such as Frank Langella, Rosario Dawson, Josh Hartnett, and Teresa Palmer the cast should have overwhelmed. I understand this movie was meant to be subtle. It certainly was. That doesn't mean that it accomplished any of the other goals it should have. Even the transitions felt like a made-for-TV movie.

It wasn't all bad though. I can say this for the movie: some of the dialogue is absolutely STUNNING. If the ambiance and thematic elements were as sharp as the dialogue I would be worshipping this movie. I really can not express how brilliantly written many of the lines and interactions are. Sadly, the acting was not pulled into that expressiveness.

Unimpressive as it is, I also have to give credit to the fact that film did cause some inner-dialogue to bandy about in my brain. One thought I had was that it is quite sad that there is so much available footage of turmoil in the world that filmmakers have an abundance to choose from in order to create authentic "news reel" moments in their movies. So, kudos for that, I guess.

I am being harsh, yes. Maybe I was just disappointed in the fact that it wasn't at all what I was expecting or maybe the film just didn't pay off the way it should have after hyping itself as an excursion in a biologically terrorized landscape. Either way I was left as hopeless as the world in movie, just not in the intended way.

With no hyperbole I say that the ending is forgettable; I literally forgot what happened at the end five minutes after it was over. I had to go back and watch it again. And I wished I hadn't.

T.S. Eliot knew all along: "This is how the world ends / Not with a bang, but a whimper."

Despite some absolutely incredible dialogue (really, I can't say that enough) Parts Per Billion just misses on all fronts. I do not hate it I just was not happy with it. I would not say the movie was a complete and utter disaster but I would say it was at least a few parts per.

Image - Amazon.