It began with Shaun of the Dead, it continued in Hot Fuzz, and now it reaches its gut-busting conclusion, The World’s End. Edgar Wright’s critically acclaimed Cornetto trilogy not only features some superb performances by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, but it also features an irresistible mix of humor and heart that just isn’t common in movies anymore.
Gary(Simon Pegg), Andrew(Nick Frost), Peter(Eddie Marsan), Oliver(Martin Freeman), and Steven(Paddy Considine) grew up together. They tackled high school together, ordered their first drinks together, and lived and laughed together. They were the closest group of friends you’d ever seen. Now, after years of being apart, they are meeting middle age head-on together. When Gary King shows up to each of his old friends’ places of work garbed in a creepy coat and sunglasses, they know he means business. He recruits them to return to their hometown and once again take on the Golden Mile, an infamous string of bars that they attempted to conquer as youngsters. The end game is reaching The World’s End, the last bar on the Golden Mile and every alcoholic’s paradise. An innocent pub crawl turns into a fight for their lives when they discover that their beloved hometown has been overrun and replaced by aliens, a fact that horrifies everyone but Gary. He remains hellbent on reaching The World’s End, and nothing, not even an alien takeover, will stop him from tasting sweet, hoppy victory.
Simon Pegg turns in an absolutely phenomenal performance as the determined, beer loving Gary King, a man who feels empty and drinks copious amounts of alcohol to suppress this emptiness. Pegg brilliantly balances clever, well-timed one-liners with teary-eyed confessions, portraying his character as one who is happy-go-lucky on the surface but tormented and lost underneath. Nick Frost also shines as Gary’s lovable, bad-ass buddy Andrew, the archetypical companion who gives his old friend the push he needs to overcome his dependence on alcohol and finally grow the hell up. Eddie Marsan’s quieter, more subtle performance as the timid Peter takes a back seat to Pegg and Frost’s scene-stealing characters, but his precious few moments in the spotlight are well-earned and well-timed, resulting in a respect for his character that would have been absent otherwise. Paddy Considine, while not as well-known as his fellow cast members, holds his own against Pegg and Frost, not quite matching their performances but still managing to present Steven as an enjoyable, relatable character. Martin Freeman delivers a somewhat hollow performance as the reluctant, uptight Oliver(fondly called O-Man by his friends), and chances are viewers won’t connect with his character nearly as much as they do with the others. Rosamund Pike disappoints as Sam, Oliver’s sister, a flat, dull character who really doesn’t have much use other than serving as the film’s only major female character. In such a testosterone heavy flick, a stronger female character would have been welcome.
Almost every decision Edgar Wright makes with this film is calculated, clever, and serves a clear purpose, even if that purpose is utterly ridiculous. He refuses to let the story dip in quality or hilarity, instead creating his own formula and turning it into something truly special. The film’s plot can accurately be compared to a drunk driver, making so many sharp twists and turns that it’s impossible to tell where it will go next. I apologize in advance if my drunk driver comparison offended anyone. I just thought it was a fitting one considering the film’s premise involves a bunch of friends getting hammered. The action excites, the humor satisfies, and the plot surprises, resulting in an unforgettable, pulse-pounding film that totally justifies going back for second, third, and even fourth viewings.
The film occasionally toes the line between hilariously entertaining and completely strange, which can be off-putting for some viewers. The instances where Wright slips up are few and far between, but the rest of the movie is so flawless that these instances of imperfection are glaring and distracting.
Other than that, The World’s End is a winner and a new career best for Wright. Not only that, but it may be among the year’s best films.
4.5 out of 5 stars