Thomas Jane’s character, David Drayton, spends the film finding himself as the sole voice of reason amidst the increasing amount of mob mentality, violence, and panic. Whether it’s him dealing with increasingly violent religious sects that appear among the survivors, who start sacrificing people to appease the monsters or people who outright refuse to believe anything is wrong, eventually walking willingly into the mist and meeting their doom. . . Drayton tried his best to act reasonable amidst such escalating stupidity, but at every turn, his decisions were wrong and cost people their lives.
This pattern of futility emerges during the film’s surprising and impactful final sequence. The ending, which differs from the ending of Stephen King’s original novel, features Drayton and several other people ultimately escaping the grocery store, seeking shelter in a car. With only four bullets left in the gun, the group accepts their fate to come, and they decide to commit suicide rather than become victims of the horror around them. A fifth man with four bullets, Drayton killed four other survivors, including his young son, and then awaited his fate. Not long after he made this painful choice, soldiers arrived on the scene, and it seemed that the day had been saved, but before that he made unnecessary sacrifices.
The divisive ending has been praised by King himself. This is the ultimate example of Drayton making what appears to be a noble choice, putting others out of his misery and sacrificing himself, only to be swept by the rug from under him, realizing they were only minutes from rescue. This is the last straw that cements the theme of the infertility of rationality in crisis.