The plot sees Pegg’s Gary King – a man in perpetual arrested development, stuck somewhere around 1990 – trying to reunite his old group of friends to return to their home-town in order to complete a legendary pub-crawl –twelve pints in twelve pubs – that they never quite reached the end of when they were younger.
Sadly for King, the rest of his friends – Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine and Eddie Marsan– have all grown up, and largely want nothing to do with him. When he finally convinces them, they discover that it’s not just them that have changed, but that the little town of Newton Haven might not be quite all they remember. The plot brings to mind a dozen classic sci-fi films – Invasion of the Body Snatchers being then obvious one – but the Brit-sci-fi-comedy vibe also brings the more recent Attack the Block to mind.
The World’s End is a distillation of everything that has made Edgar Wright’s career a success to this point and it’s by far the funniest of what became known as the Blood & Ice Cream trilogy. Where Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz were very clever films, they would often generate more gentle, knowing smiles than actual belly-laughs. Not the case here; Wright and Pegg’s script is so fast-paced and snappy; so crammed with hilarious one-liners and gags that it simply demands a second viewing to catch them all.
And if it’s the most obviously comedic entry in the series, it also boasts the best action sequences too. The sci-fi aspects of the plot – in which the people of Newton Haven have been replaced by alien-robot-replicant-things, allows for some innovative fight-sequences. Given that the “blanks”, as they become known, are so fragile, their limbs popping off at the sockets like action figures, the fight-scenes become a flurry of limbs and extremities.
The action is ludicrously hyper-real, ala Wright’s Scott Pilgrim, and makes for some of the most purely entertaining sequences of the year so far; a hilarious bar-brawl during which Pegg’s character is just trying to finish his pint brings to mind the prop-work of Jackie Chan and the silent comedy of Chaplin, Keating, etc, while the first fight – in a pub toilet – is a truly jaw-dropping achievement, and one that the distinctly non-action hero cast rise to and relish.
Aside from all the jokes about booze and alien-robots, the film is actually a comment on the “Starbucking” of society; the way in which large chains and corporations come in and take over with the aim of making things better, but merely create legions of identikit clones. That’s what the gang find in their pubs – they may as well have called the effect “Whetherspooning” – and it’s also what the invading force means to do to the human populace. They promise happiness and joy and vast technological improvement, but the guys just want something with a bit of character.
The idea of The World’s End is that human beings will rebel against this homogenisation, even if to a fault. And if it means drinking twelve pints and being drunken lads ahead of competent adults, then so be it!
Simon Pegg has never been better than here; his Gary King is a wonderfully terrible creation; he’s the sort of person that you’d absolutely detest if you met in real-life, but who’s funny enough on film that you find yourself rooting for them; his single-minded aim to complete the pub-crawl in the face of terrible danger is endearing in a way that perhaps only British audiences that have attempted the same, in similar towns, will appreciate. By the time you discover the real reasons he wants to finish the crawl, he’s even become something of a tragic figure.
The rest of the cast, too, are excellent. Nick Frost, as the tee-total straight-edge among the group, does some great work, but sadly Rosamund Pike’s love-interest for the group is something of an after-thought, and though she’s good, she’s under-used, and her sub-plot lacks any real climax. The film is peppered with faces from all walks of British comedy, all of whom are a joy to behold, even if their appearances are fleeting.
At this point, Edgar Wright might be our most entertaining director, and The World’s End is a delirious joy from start to finish. The soundtrack is fantastic – just wait and see the extent to which Primal Scream’s ‘Loaded’ becomes part of the film – and the special effects are wonderfully pleasing to the eye. The sci-fi aspect of the plot may be almost an after-thought at times, with the relationship between the gang and their mission to rediscover their youth the real heart of the film. They may have grown up in a way that Gary never did, but you get the sense a part of them wishes they hadn’t. Whether it’s the gang reconnecting over a pint, or fighting alien-robots, The World’s End is always engaging and always entertaining.
A celebration of Britishness, of individuality, of friendships and of beer, The World’s End is a triumph, and a fitting end to the Blood & Ice trilogy – there are plenty of nods to the previous films, and the Cornetto’s final appearance is sublime. If nothing else, it will definitely make you want contact your old friends and drinking buddies and arrange to meet up for a pint. Or twelve…
Released in UK cinemas on Friday 19 July 2013.
What did you think of The World’s End? Let us know below…