The World’s End
Directed by Edgar Wright
Starring Simon Pegg and
The World’s End, directed by Edgar Wright and starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, is the third British comedy in the “Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy,” along with Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007). Aside from the creative team and similar themes, each film in the trilogy stands on its own. Shaun of the Dead was a romantic comedy and a zombie horror flick mashup; Hot Fuzz was a cop action comedey; and finally, The World’s End is science fiction, by way of a brilliant and dark comedy about the balance between growing up and fears of conformity.
Aging goth Gary King (Simon Pegg) reunites his old school friends to complete the Golden Mile pub crawl, a route through their sleepy hometown of Newton Haven with stops at twelve pubs, ending at a pub called The World’s End. They last attempted the Golden Mile as 19-year-olds. Since then, Gary’s buddies had moved on with their lives, while now 40-year-old Gary was overcoming alcoholism. Getting his chums back together and attempting the Golden Mile again is Gary’s way of reliving the happiest time in his life.
The group of estranged friends is rounded out by Oliver (Martin Freeman), Steven (Paddy Considine), Peter (Eddie Marsan) and Oliver’s sister Sam (Rosamund Pike). These characters are not mere foils for Gary. They have their own lives and responsibilities and don’t quite mesh anymore because they’ve grown apart, which often happens in reunions among friends who have lost touch. Gary spends the first part of the film fighting not against the downfall of humanity, but against the realization that not everyone is stuck in the past, the way they are in his imagination.
Gary is not a likeable screw-up who just wants to have fun. He’s a fast-talking liar who manipulates his friends. His best friend and sidekick Andy (Nick Frost) had quit drinking and left him behind for a good reason, but the film presents Gary as an interesting enough character, and it’s hard not to cheer for him.
Like Wright’s other movies, the camera angles, framing and transitions are funny and whimsical, and the fight scenes are genuinely entertaining. There are some common gags in the Cornetto Trilogy movies, such as jumping over fences in suburban backyards, but these gags are funny even without seeing them as call-backs. The speech Gary gives in the end to defend humanity is a bit pat, especially compared to the brilliant writing overall, but it encompasses the themes of the trilogy as a whole. The apocalyptic ending is far out of proportion to the rest of the film, which is as jarring as the sudden genre change to sci-fi, but it will give you the feeling that you’ve come a long way as you leave the theater.
The change in genre from buddy film to sci-fi action comedy happens so abruptly you might wonder if Gary is having a drug-induced hallucination. After the friends realize their precarious position, they decide that the only way to escape is to play along by finishing the pub crawl.
This is a weak point in the film: it’s easy to imagine other, perhaps more reasonable, courses of action. If you don’t know the twist ahead of time, you might need to see this movie twice to see that there is another possible explanation for their decision.