The World's End - Review
Review by Rob Carnevale
NINE years after winning over audiences with their hit zom-com Shaun of the Dead Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright return to complete their so-called ‘Cornetto’ trilogy with The World’s End – and the results are flawed but still great fun.
Riffing on the same formula that enabled Shaun to become such a success, this nevertheless feels a little older and wiser – evidence, perhaps, of the way Pegg and Wright have grown within the filmmaking industry.
But it’s also typically British and wonderfully nostalgic, capable of appealing not only to teenage film fans right now but also to anyone who has ever enjoyed the camaraderie of mates on a pub crawl or the heavenly days of the ’90s music scene.
The film begins as late 30-something man-child Gary King (Pegg) ruefully recalls the greatest night of his life, 20 years ago, during which he led his best friends through the trim streets of Newton Haven to attempt a 12-pint pub crawl.
Admitting [in rehab] that the feat has never been personally topped, even though he never reached the 12th pub milestone, King resolves to put the band back together again for another attempt, and so enlists his former buddies – estate agent Oliver (Martin Freeman), newly single Steven (Paddy Considine), family man Peter (Eddie Marsan) and former best friend Andrew (Nick Frost) – for another night of revellry.
This time around, however, King is determined that nothing shall get in their way – even though Newton Haven is no longer the town they remember, having been taken over by robot-style alien replicants who become intent on ‘replacing’ the ‘five musketeers’ with their own clones.
While The World’s End does, like Shaun of the Dead, ultimately boil down to a group of friends running around a town (and various pubs) trying to stay alive, this is inspired more by the likes of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Quatermass and the books of John Wyndham (The Midwich Cuckoos) rather than Romero.
It’s also a wry commentary on growing up, friendship and how it evolves and – on a broader level – the changing face of British society in which pubs all conform to the same formula for success and the people in them struggle to communicate on the same level they once did. And then there’s the innumerable pop culture references that are scattered in (as per usual) and a smattering of bigger name cameos to savour.
Indeed, with so much to recommend and enjoy in The World’s End it’s easy to overlook the film’s flaws, most of which – admittedly – crop up during the hit-and-miss last act when the mayhem really hits the fan and the revelations don’t always add up to a satisfying whole (although we won’t ruin them here).
Pegg’s central character also threatens to be a problem throughout given that he’s constantly on the verge of being obnoxious. It’s a brave choice for Pegg that extends his range nicely but it’s one that may well irk some viewers given how self-absorbed the character is for most of the film.
That said, The World’s End nevertheless still manages to thrive amid the chemistry and interplay between this band of merry (and increasingly pissed) ‘brothers’. Tensions may simmer between them but there’s a great deal of affection too and the cast obviously enjoy being in each other’s company.
Cornetto newcomer Marsan is particularly endearing as the once bullied Peter, playing the amiable straight man in superb fashion, while Considine and Freeman are typically assured.
Frost, though, steals the show. His former best friend, turned tee-totaller, arguably has the biggest story arc and the actor embraces the opportunity to showcase a different side to the more mild-mannered (even cuddly) on-screen persona that he’s more commonly associated with. Andrew is a ticking timebomb waiting to explode, yet his inner rage is born out of disappointment and frustration… the reason for which becomes apparent during the closing minutes. It enables Frost and Pegg to share some of their best work together.
Wright’s direction, meanwhile, is suitably slick and even Hollywood-honed, especially during the martial arts set pieces in which the friends tackle their robot enemies. But while enjoyable (particularly during a moment that Gary attempts to finish a pint), there was maybe some room for something a little more slapstick and (in keeping with the film’s tone) drink-infused. It’s another of those minor niggles.
But there’s no denying the sparkling nature of the dialogue that he and Pegg have delivered and which helps to generate a lot of the film’s biggest laughs. The jokes fly fast and most of them hit.
And let’s not forget the soundtrack either – a brilliant collection of ’90s favourites (from Blur to The Soup Dragons via Primal Scream and The Stone Roses) that help lend the film a great sense of energy and heighten the sense of nostalgia being experienced by the characters.
The World’s End is therefore a hugely enjoyable ride that rounds off the Cornetto trilogy in some style. It may not be their very best work (Hot Fuzz gets my vote on that count) but it’s a funny, clever and consistently engaging crowd-pleaser that is worth toasting – cheers, boys!
Running time: 109mins
UK Release Date: July 19, 2013