The World’s End (2013) Directed by Edgar Wright. Starring: Rosamund Pike, Simon Pegg, Martin Freeman. IMDB says: ”Five friends who reunite in an attempt to top their epic pub crawl from 20 years earlier unwittingly become humankind’s only hope for survival.”
Quick note from Lindsay: Hello FTS readers! Please enjoy the following review of The World’s End written by the supremely talented Jay Cluitt of Life vs. Film. Mr. Cluitt’s British privilege allowed him to see the highly anticipated Edgar Wright film well before those of us based in the US (the film opens here August 23rd.) Fortunately, he was kind enough to share his thoughts with FTS. Be sure to comment Jay and keep an eye out for more of his writing in the near future…
To say that The World’s End is a highly anticipated film is something of an understatement. As modern comedies go, the first two parts of the Three Flavours: Cornetto trilogy; Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, are amongst the smartest, most-quoted and most-reached-for when a sour mood is in need of rectifying. It’s therefore difficult to judge this, Edgar Wright’s third cinematic collaboration with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (not counting Spielberg’s Adventures of Tintin, which Wright co-wrote and Pegg and Frost appeared in as Thompson and Tompson), solely on its own merits, especially when comparisons are made to the earlier films, such as the appearance of some familiar faces and referenced jokes, not least of which is the third mint-green Cornetto wrapper glimpsed briefly towards the end, and a fence-jump that’s only exacerbated since its original inclusion in Shaun.
The trouble, and beauty, with these films is that they get better with time. Repeat viewings reward the eagle-eyed when hunting out the plethora of sight gags and homages dotted throughout. Upon first viewing, therefore, the film was something of a disappointment; not quite living up to the heady heights of the previous efforts, but then that was exactly the same thing I noted after my first viewing of Hot Fuzz, and now I look back on that film as a slice of fried gold. It’s safe to assume then that in a couple of years time, after my Blu-Ray disc begins to show signs of degradation, I shall look back at my scoring of this film with shame, and immediately bump up the value in my head. For now, however, I cannot speculate to the future, I can only remark on what has been done.
The film begins with Pegg’s Gary King in a counseling circle. Like all of Pegg’s Wright-based characters, King isn’t terribly likeable, but where Shaun was lazy and misguided and Nicholas Angel was overly serious and emotionally stunted, King is immature and disassociated with the world around him. Instead, he’s comically stuck in a past that only he cares about, specifically one night twenty three years ago, when he and his four mates all attempted the hallowed Golden Mile; a pub crawl of twelve pubs in the small village of Newton Haven. Recreating that fateful night may be the last chance of saving not just Gary, but humanity itself.
King’s companions on this mission are uptight estate agent Oliver (Martin Freeman), ladies man and architect Steven (Paddy Considine), timid car salesman Peter (Eddie Marsan) and reluctant lawyer Andy (Nick Frost), Gary’s former best friend who fell out with him some time ago. One of the joys of these films has always been the casting, and these four, along with Pegg, are all superb. Rosamund Pike also performs well as Sam, Oliver’s sisters and a former flame of Gary’s who joins them partway through their odyssey, and there are a few other cameos along the way, and fans of the Wright-directed Spaced will not be disappointed. Unfortunately the cast isn’t quite as impressive as that assembled for Hot Fuzz, which seemed to feature every British actor, ever, but here those involved get a greater chance to shine.
Now, the important question, is it funny? Damn straight it is. Though it starts off a little slow, once we’re introduced to the supporting players and they begin to interact and banter as a group it really picks itself up. Eddie Marsan, a newcomer to the series, turns out to be an unlikely comedic genius, and hopefully this will open some doors up for this otherwise highly underrated character actor, previously best known as the hapless inspector in Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes and the bad guy in Hancock. There’s also a great deal of combat involved, which itself leads to some hilarious set pieces, not least of which sees Pegg’s Gary attempting to brawl one-armed whilst shielding his precious pint of lager with the other. Some obvious gags have been avoided (there’s no “You’ve got red on you” this time around, even though there are many glaring opportunities that it could have been adapted to), but the fact that they’re so blatant would have made the laugh cheap and stale, so personally I don’t mind too much. Something I did have an issue with though is a throwback to the rest of the trilogy. You remember how, in Shaun of the Dead, the day’s events are laid out inadvertently the day before the zombie attack by Ed, and how in Hot Fuzz everything Danny says he wants to do eventually occurs within the film? Well a similar device is used here, and when you get used to spotting these signs, it does tend to mar the first viewing experience. That being said, I’ve grown to appreciate those elements in the other films, so in time I’m sure this pre-emptive sequence will send a grin spreading over my face.
The soundtrack is resplendent with some 90s classics, with the likes of Pulp, The Stone Roses and Soup Dragons dragging out some dusty memories of school discos perhaps best forgotten, and it’s pretty clear the effects budget has been amped up too, and it’s all been put to great use. The ending – and I’ll not spoil anything – also comes as something of a surprise, showing just how brave these film makers are, and how grateful we should all be that these films exist. Plus, they mention Bournemouth! That’s where I live! And they even give it the proper adjective (it beings with an ‘F’).
The World’s End is a worthy addition to the Cornetto trilogy, but it doesn’t have the cult classic status… yet.