There’s a sad sense of nostalgia running through The World’s End, a longing for simpler times when a pub crawl was an epic quest, one that wasn’t so much about the result as the attempt, the stab at accomplishing something. Unfortunately for Gary King (Simon Pegg), this nostalgia has crippled him to the point where he’s certain that if he can go back and finish what he started, his life will have meaning once again.
And so he slowly recruits his old group of friends: Oliver (Martin Freeman), a real estate broker with a bluetooth headset ever-present in his ear; Steven (Paddy Considine), a construction foreman who used to consider himself a rival to Gary; Peter (Eddie Marsan), a car salesman working for his father who has always been meek and mild; and Andy (Nick Frost), Gary’s former best friend who has been sober for 16 years following a dramatic falling out. Through belligerence and guilt-tripping, Gary manages to convince them to return to their hometown of Newton Haven to have a crack at The Golden Mile, the 12-pub crawl the town is famous for. But the group (which Gary has enthusiastically dubbed the “Five Muskateers”) soon realizes that something is very different, and very strange about Newton Haven.
The World’s End is the last film in what director Edgar Wright has dubbed his “Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy,” which was begun with Shaun of the Dead and continued with Hot Fuzz. The films share no characters, nor do they share a world, but all three have strong themes of identity and individuality in the face of the societal pressure to conform (represented as zombies, village associations and the trend of “Starbucking”). They’re all also playful homages to their genres, be it zombie movies, action films, or sci-fi stories, and as such, they’re all quite hilarious.
If I had to pick (which I don’t, but I’m going to anyway), I would have to declare The World’s End to be my favorite of the trilogy. It’s got the strongest characters, the best action sequences, and it’s tied with Hot Fuzz for being the funniest.
Speaking of the action sequences, they’re all superbly filmed, and between this film and Scott Pilgrim vs The World, Edgar Wright has shown himself to be a fantastic action director. Everything is always clear, the choreography is great (Brad Allen, a member of Jackie Chan’s team, was the stunt coordinator), and they just have that plain “cool factor” that makes them fun to watch.
I could go on about how great the editing is, how as the characters get drunker the film develops a subtle “drunken haze” effect in certain shots, but the bottom line is this: what sets this film apart from Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz is the beating heart and soul it possesses. It says you can’t stay young forever, but try not to grow up so fast or so much.