The World’s End is the last film in the “Cornetto Trilogy”, films penned by Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg, directed by Wright, which kicked off ten years ago with the much loved rom-zom-com Shaun of the Dead, which was followed in 2007 by the police drama meets Wicker-man-homage Hot Fuzz.
Simon Pegg plays irresponsible man-child Gary King, one time cool kid and ladies man, who finds himself nearing 40 and looking back to the halcyon days of his teens, in particular to a pub crawl around his home town, which he remembers as the best night of his life. He decides to gather up the gang of mates who were with him that night to re-live the glories of teenage abandon, but this time to complete the crawl and drink in all 12 pubs on The Golden Mile of fictional town of Newton Haven.
We meet the various members of King’s gang as he travels around London (as they have all fled their small hometown) trying to recruit them to the reunion pub crawl. We meet Peter, (Eddie Marsden) who is now a partner in his father’s car dealership and married to domineering wife Vanessa, Oliver (Martin Freeman), bluetooth-headset-wearing estate agent, and Steven (Paddy Considine), one-time second fiddle to Gary who has now sold his company and is seeing a 26 year-old fitness instructor. Unlike the previous Cornetto films, Nick Frost takes the role of straight-man to Pegg’s comedic lead, in the form of Andy, Gary’s one time best mate, who has now become the partner in a corporate law firm and is settled with a wife and children. We find out that an accident had happened, and the 2 have been estranged for 10 years, leading to their icy relationship needing some defrosting before the crawl can happen. However, the unlikely group of grown-ups and their stuck-in-a-rut friend make their way to Newton Haven and set off on the pub crawl, meeting on their way Oliver’s sister Sam (Rosamund Pike), with whom Gary had a thing with in the disabled toilets back in the 90s (and unceremoniously left shortly afterwards). Unfortunately, as happens in the Cornetto films, all does not go according to plan, and the five-some find themselves battling for their lives and the fate of the entire human race, as Newton Haven proves to have more going on than first meets the eye.
I would have been 13 in 1990, when the gang first went on their attempted one mile pub crawl from The First Post to The World’s End. I also lived in a small town and dreamed of escape, so the reality the characters inhabit is one I recognise, and the soundtrack to their youth is one I share. The over-riding themes of the film are therefore, as the internet says, relevant to my interests. Even the characters are people I recognise, the man-child still trying to live his teenage dream, the grown-ups who have forgotten the excitement that life once held, humans who have been replaced by robots…
The World’s End is also, importantly, very funny. Pegg is brilliant in the role of Gary, and clearly relishes playing an arsehole rather than the likeable good guy. That being said, ultimately you DO like Gary. He is both brash and needy, with enough emotional depth to give the impression that, like many of the residents of Newton Haven, there may be more to him than meets the eye.
Pegg and Wright’s script takes the concept of body snatching as a metaphor for growing up and play with it expertly in this coming-of-age-too-late comedy. Would the young you recognise the older you? Is it a bad thing to retain some of the joy and optimism of youth? Does “Starbucking” extend to human beings? The emotional journeys of the characters are painted deftly with exposition of backstories being effortlessly shown, sometimes in only a line or two of dialogue. At some points gags rattle past you so fast it is easy to be laughing at one while missing 2 or 3 more. Themes familiar from the previous two films come to the fore- family, friendship, loyalty and love- all of which make this far more than a straight-forward comedy finale to the trilogy.
Wright’s direction has developed over the course of the trilogy (and his forays in non-Pegg/Frost worlds), with The World’s End providing some fantastic action sequences that are both exciting and funny, turning Nick Frost into a full-blown action hero. The special effects laden finale to the film balances the spectacular and the intimate brilliantly, with a fabulously touching moment coming between Gary and Andy in the midst of the big finale, while not slowing down the action.
Funny, touching and intelligent, The World’s End is a thoroughly satisfying end to the Cornetto trilogy, maintaining the feel and the themes of the first two films while also showing that the whole cast and crew are now masters of their respective fields.
5 out of 5