The World’s End

Posted: August 8, 2013 in Film reviews
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Directed by Edgar Wright. Starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.

Somehow, in amongst all the Hollywood Mission Impossibles and Star Treks, Simon Pegg has finally found time to write and star in the third of the eponymous Cornetto trilogy that began in 2004 with the Zombie rom-com Shaun of the Dead, and continued in 2007 with the buddy cop thriller spoof Hot Fuzz.

As with the previous films, Edgar Wright directs (and also co-script) and Pegg’s best mate/former flat mate Nick Frost is on hand to play the sidekick once more.

In 1992 a group of teenage boys finished school and embarked upon a pub crawl of epic proportions; the eponymous Golden Mile which encompassed 12 pubs, culminating in the titular ‘The World’s End’. They singularly failed to make it to the end of the crawl, but in the present day the group’s leader Gary (Pegg) King brings the boys back together to try and recapture their youth and finally make it to The World’s End.

The trouble is, whilst Gary hasn’t moved on with his life, his friends have. Andy (Frost) is now a lawyer, Steven (Paddy Considine) now owns a building company, O-Man (Martin Freeman) is an estate agent, and Peter (Eddie Marsden) is partner in a car showroom. As such none of them are that interested in getting hideously drunk, just so Gary can try and recapture what he sees as the last best night of his life.

Through various nefarious means, Gary convinces them to come with him, back to their old home town of Newton Haven, where they’re joined by Sam (Rosamund Pike) Oliver’s sister ( who Steve had a massive crush on but Gary slept with back in the day.) They imagine it’s going to be a long night…but what they don’t realise is that their home town has changed a bit since their day…and so have most of its inhabitants.

So, after giving us zombie protagonists in Sean of the Dead, followed by Middle Englander cultists in Hot Fuzz, Pegg, Frost and Wright now turn their attention to an enemy from outer space.

I was worried that familiarity might breed contempt, that this would be something of a self-congratulatory exercise for all concerned (and at least one joke in the trailer seemed to confirm this was just going to be a by the numbers best of Shaun/Fuzz. )

I needn’t have worried. Whilst there is something very familiar about the characters, dialogue and situations, rather than jarring this works to the films advantage. Like a well-worn paid of slippers I was incredibly comfortable from the opening seconds, pretty much right the way to the end.

That isn’t to say there isn’t originality on show here, for starters Pegg and Frost have, to an extent, switched roles from Shaun of the Dead, and this time it’s Pegg’s turn to play the obnoxious character, though whilst Gary isn’t especially likeable, he’s tragic (and occasionally heroic) enough that you can’t help rooting for him as the night goes increasingly to pot, especially once you realise why he’s suddenly so obsessed with the past. Frost in contrast gets to play a more grown up character than usual…well for the first half of the film at least, and he does a good job, he’s definitely evolved as an actor since he debuted in Spaced all those years ago.

Of the remainder of the group, only Considine is truly given anything meaty to sink his teeth into, although Marsden and Freeman get the odd moment they’re really here just to make up the numbers. Rounding off the cast are two Bond alumni (doubling the 007 input from Hot Fuzz) in former Bond girl Rosamund Pike (who sits neatly in my top five Bond girls list so, as you can imagine, I thought she was great in this) and former Bond Pierce Brosnan. Unfortunately the nature of Brosnan’s character is such that he’s slightly subdued, and isn’t able to throw himself into the part the way Timothy Dalton did in Hot Fuzz.

I laughed a lot through the film, many more times than Mark Kermode’s litmus test of 6 laughs to make a successful comedy, although it would be unfair to label this as just a comedy. Like I say there is some pathos in there, and whilst not exactly hard sci-fi, the otherworldly plot is intriguing enough with nods towards the Starbuckization of the British high-street.

This is a film to be enjoyed as a nostalgic exercise in some respects though, and worked on me on two fronts. Firstly there’s the familiarity of the old Spaced/Shaun/Fuzz crew back together again (and most people who’ve stared in Spaced and/or at least one of those films gets a cameo, although it’s shame Jessica Hynes wasn’t involved) but the other thing this evokes is a point in time which sits during my time at University, a particularly memorable point in my life, and the so the fashions, the music and the general attitudes strike a chord there as well.

I’d like to think a viewer could enjoy this even if it was the first Pegg/Wright film they’d seen. It’s well cast, witty and nicely paced. I think it only really loses its way in a couple of places. A few of the fight scenes become repetitive, and the ending seems far too eager to take the title literally.

It might be a case that familiarity breeds enjoyment, but I don’t care. I haven’t enjoyed a film this much all year, even if I do now have a craving for a marmalade sandwich…

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