What do you do if you think the world is ending? If you’re Edgar Wright, Nick Frost or Simon Pegg, you desperately try to finish an epic pub crawl. The boys are back in town, or in this case, the sleepy British village of Newton Haven. The trio of director Edgar Wright and stars Nick Frost and Simon Pegg return to complete their self-titled Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy with The World’s End.
Useless no-hoper Gary King (Pegg) attempts to reunite his old group of friends whom haven’t seen each other for 20 years. Finally succeeding in making contact with Andrew Knightley (Frost), Steven Prince (Paddy Considine), Oliver Chamberlain (Martin Freeman) and Peter Page (Eddie Marsan), the five men return to Newton Haven to complete a 12-pub pub crawl that they failed 20 years previously. As they progress along the ˜Golden Mile’ they begin to realize that everything is not quite what it seems.
The first thing to say about The World’s End is that it’s funny. Very funny. In fact if there’s a film that makes you laugh more this year it’ll come as a surprise. The creative trio of Wright, Pegg and Frost have a long-standing history of top-quality comedy work, starting with the much-loved TV show Spaced and spreading to their individual projects like Paul and the hugely underrated Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. But it is in this trilogy that the three men are at their absolute best and while the narrative structure is familiar, they haven’t backed down or tried to avoid change.
In the same way that Shaun of the Dead (red Cornetto representing blood and gore) was an homage to Romero’s zombie films and Hot Fuzz (blue classic Cornetto representing the thin blue line of the police) brought the big budget American action film to a sleepy English village, The World’s End (green mint choc chip Cornetto representing things that will become apparent after watching) joyfully riffs on the science fiction genre staples like Day of the Triffids and Invasion of the Bodysnatchers. But as with the other instalments of the Cornetto trilogy, they inject their own unique brand of humour to give a sense of familiarity.
They do however take some risks. While the characters may feel familiar, the tonal shifts and general pacing is not. Some of the sentimentality is replaced with a more cynical outlook on life, which perfectly fits the 40-something characters. In fact, as with the previous two films, The World’s End is ostensibly a warning to the dangers of nostalgia and conformity and while some fans may just want Shaun 2 or Hot Fuzz 2, what they’ll get is something that is unique that can stand alongside the previous films, but is not entirely reliant upon them. This may seem scary, but it is a very good thing and will no doubt stand the film in better stead as the years go by.
A new addition to Edgar Wright’s arsenal comes in the form of the manic action scenes, perhaps a dry run for the upcoming Ant-Man. From the initial encounter in a gents toilet, Wright deftly presents a melee of sublime balletic choreography. While the fighting skills of the main quintet may sit slightly at odds with the characters backgrounds, it’s so frantic and fun that it is easily forgiven. The action is however just an added bonus to the meat of The World’s End, which is the relationship of the central characters.
With a supporting cast featuring Freeman, Marsan and Considine, some of Britain’s finest heavyweight actors, The World’s End has a cast that any gritty British drama would die for. With these men providing not only a solid base of realism, but also some inspired comic chops, the foundations are laid for the sometimes silly, sometimes heart-breaking drama that ensues. Rosamund Pike performs admirably as the strong, confident female lead and while she is absent for swathes of the film, she almost steals it as her character grows and develops in among the blokes. But it is in the familiar relationship of Messieurs Pegg and Frost where The World’s End heart can be truly found.
In the previous films Frost has been the loveable oaf aside Pegg’s straight man, but for this final film their roles are somewhat reversed. Andrew Knightley is played with uptight precision by the often underrated Frost, while Pegg’s Gary King is a sublimely insane creation. Equal parts lunatic, poet and most importantly salesman, it is his relentless drive and positivity that propels the action as well as providing The World’s End with its dramatic gravitas. It’s nice to see when the final scenes occur that the script does not allow for sentimentality to take away from the impact of the revelations, which gives both men a perfect opportunity to showcase their acting range.
It is with bittersweet joy that we say goodbye to this most innovative of collaborations. I’m sure there will come a time when the three reunite, but with Ant-Man on Edgar Wright’s immediate horizon and a slate of comedies and blockbusters lined-up for Pegg and Frost it won’t be for some time. But instead of commiserating the end, we should celebrate what we have: Another future classic with more belly laughs than most recent comedy films from three of the most unlikely stars in the film industry.
Time at the bar gentlemen, this is the end, The World’s End and it delivers everything you want, and then some. How’s that for a slice of fried gold?