World's End, The (2013)
Directed by Edgar Wright
Nostalgia, the apocalypse and (of course) beer are all on tap for Edgar Wright’s stunningly satisfying finale to his Cornetto Trilogy, The World’s End, in which we follow five longtime friends who journey home after 20 years to complete an epic pub crawl called “The Golden Mile” they failed in their teens, only to discover that nothing is as it seems in their sleepy hometown upon their return.
The story follows perpetual partier Gary King (Simon Pegg) who has failed to realize that after two decades, it no longer matters that you’re still “cool” because everyone else around you has already grown up and moved on to adulthood. Unable to accept that perhaps his best days are now behind him, King sets out to round up the entire gang from high school (even lying and manipulating his chums when needed) for one final attempt at finally making it through the pub crawl and to the legendary final bar, The World’s End, in an effort to recapture his glory days and reconnect with his old pals.
And because this IS a story written by Wright and Pegg, you can imagine that’s only scratching the surface when it comes to the events in The World’s End; suffice to say, the duo managed to craft a story that’s not just charming, hilarious, heartfelt and dripping in sci-fi/apocalyptic homages but it is also by far the most mature work we’ve seen from Wright or Pegg (in script or onscreen). Through all of their films, they’ve always managed to find new ways of cleverly exploring the different stages of platonic male friendship through adulthood and The World’s End is no different, except that in this instance, we see Nick Frost taking his turn as the level-headed friend with Pegg’s character Gary being the man-child for this round which not only was a refreshing spin for this fan but also allowed Pegg to show off a completely different side of himself as an actor.
Pegg’s performance was not only darkly comedic (even sometimes pushing things into the slightly infuriating territory with his total lack of regard for his friends) but it also showed hints of sadness, desperation and real anguish which wasn’t something I was necessarily expecting from Pegg either. And for as much as I enjoy him a comedic actor, I think after The World’s End I’m ready to see him tackle more serious roles in the future- Pegg proves here he’s got the chops and then some. Pegg, Frost and their brothers-in-arms for The World’s End - Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan and Paddy Considine - have immediate chemistry together and also tackle the physical requirements of their roles like a bunch of champs; from their first epic bathroom beat-down against some unlikely foes to the growing threat against them, it was nice to have an entire cast of characters that you feel engaged with instead of all the focus just resting solely on Pegg and Frost. There was some real thought put into these characters and their dynamics, and it shows.
Also it’s worth noting that after The World’s End, I’ve quickly become a huge Rosamund Pike fan- this gal demonstrates some very subtle comedic abilities in this film I hadn’t quite seen from her previously. Wright really allowed her some space to have fun with what very well could have easily been a toss-away role, especially considering how focused this story was on the male characters and their camaraderie.
While the melding of all the subgenres Wright and Pegg have packed into their script works rather seamlessly in The World’s End, the film does take its own sweet time in establishing its genre elements, much like Hot Fuzz did, and that’s probably my only real grievance here. The structure of TWE also feels a bit disjointed at the beginning but thankfully once everything is revealed to the pack of friends about the sinister happenings in their hometown, that’s when the story kicks into high gear with Wright assuredly finding a delicate balance between the hysterical, the super-weird and often times, the outright audacious.
There’s so much more I’d love to discuss in terms of the story and the cameos in TWE but Mr. Wright asked us to keep a lid on the surprises he has in store for you so I’ve done just that. Trust me, though, the film is full of so much awesome, the less you know going in, the better those payoffs will be in the end.
A wonderfully touching and hilarious final chapter to Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy, The World's End is a truly satisfying exploration of nostalgia and friendship that also feels bittersweet for those of us who have been following Wright, Pegg and Frost for the last decade since the release of their brilliant first film collaboration together, Shaun of Dead, in 2003. For all you fans out there who have been patiently waiting for this film, The World’s End is undoubtedly worth raising a pint (or twelve) to.
4 out of 5