Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are back together again for the third in their “three flavours Cornetto” trilogy. After the massive success the trio have had with zombie flick Shaun of the Dead and cop film Hot Fuzz, expectations are set high for their attempt at science fiction; can The World’s End possibly be as good as the two films that preceded it?
Simon Pegg (who also shares writing duties along with Wright) plays Gary King, an alcoholic who is desperately trying to recapture his lost youth by returning to his childhood town of Newton Haven to complete “The Golden Mile”, a twelve bar pub crawl ending at The World’s End which the group never managed to finish first time round in 1990. To do this, Gary reunites his old friends, who just so happen to be some of the best actors in Britain which certainly does no harm to the film: Andrew Knightley (Frost), Steven Prince (Paddy Considine), Oliver Chamberlain (Martin Freeman) and Peter Page (Eddie Marsan). Against their better knowledge the group decide to rejoin Gary for this mission, but when they get to Newton Haven they realise that they may be Earth’s only hope against a mysterious enemy.
The World’s End begins with a quick round up of the backstory: we are given glimpses into the five friends’ school and social life and a brief roundup of their first crack at the Golden Mile and how unsuccessful it ended up. Whilst there are a few sniggers here and there it serves less as a tool for comedy and more just exposition. It is not until Simon Pegg appears on the screen that the big laughs arrive and, to be honest, with Pegg on screen the laughs never seem to stop. His performance is up there with the best comedy performances of all time, he lives within the character, his charisma is unmatched and everyone can empathise with him: this is a guy who (it seems like) never wants to grow up, he’s trying to relive his youth, be the free spirit that he longs to be and not fall into the organisation of civilisation. It’s a great character turned brilliant by Pegg’s performance, cementing him as Britain’s best comedy film export of the modern era.
While the laughs are big, the action is also blood pumping. The five central actors aren’t necassarily people you would associate with being action stars or even carrying out any form of major fight scene but they more than hold their own here. Pegg and particularly Nick Frost excel themselves in the action sequences which are handled every bit as well as the comedy moments. The two best fight scenes are the ones that take place in the toilets, which allow for great fights in such a confined area, and in The Beehive against Pierce Brosnan (what is Pierce Brosnan doing popping up here?) and the townspeople.
It’s impossible not to like The World’s End. A lesser film would have lost it’s way when taking the turn from straight out comedy to science fiction but this is something that Edgar Wright embraces. Breadcrumbs are left all over the place, foreshadowing the reveal and, what’s more, you’re made to really care about the characters and believe in these people which also helps you go along with their journey. Even before the science fiction element occurs and the five friends are sat around, catching up there’s a lot to enjoy just because of the realistic element to it. It does feel like you’re sat in the pub with them: they’re just five normal guys in a pub, easily recognisable and easy to enjoy.
The World’s End is very close to a perfect comedy: it has likeable characters, great charisma and flair, wonderful performances from great actors, jokes that never end, running jokes that continue throughout, references back to Hot Fuzz which is a particular enjoyment and it has Simon Pegg in the form of his life. However, the end (quite ironically) is where the film falls from perfection.
Once at The World’s End, the heroes are confronted with the leader of this invasion (voiced by Bill Nighy) and there is a lot, and we’re talking huge speeches here, of exposition to get through. It seems like Wright and Pegg have tried to create a well rounded villain with a real motive which doesn’t quite pay off (and this comes right after the reveal of Gary King’s motives for wanting to return which is surprisingly touching and not really given enough time). Instead of giving a 2D villain with some plan you’ve heard before you’re confronted with the leader of this invasion talking out all of his plans and reasons as to why this has taken place. Credit has to go to the pair for attempting this, for trying to be different but it just never really brings the punch that you’re anticipating throughout the rest of the film. Luckily, Pegg and Frost do provide enough laughs in this segment that you can sort of overlook it but that let down does tarnish the film slightly.
Saying that though, it seems almost impossible to deny that this is a comedy film very close to perfection and one of the best British comedies of all time.
My Rating: 9/10