Wright, Pegg and Frost go three for three with Cornetto’s capstone
by Jorge Ignacio Castillo
The World’s End
In 2004, a tiny British film called Shaun of the Dead hit screens. It made a paltry $13 million at the box office, but captured the fervent appreciation of geeks everywhere who were enthralled by the combination of zombies, laughs and subtle social commentary.
Since then, some of the creative team behind Shaun — director Edgar Wright, producer Nira Park, and actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost — have become linked to franchises like Mission: Impossible, Star Trek and soon one of Marvel’s upcoming nerd blockbusters, Ant-Man.
Shaun’s cult success led to the announcement that it was the first entry in the Cornetto trilogy, a collection of comedy-infused genre flicks. The follow-up was 2007’s superb Hot Fuzz, an elaborate riff on buddy-cop movies. Now comes the ambitious conclusion, The World’s End, which is both hilarious and cutting in a way very few films of its kind have ever managed to be.
The highlight of Gary King’s (Pegg) existence occurred far too early, back when he ruled high school and the world was an open buffet. Once during those happy times, Gary and four of his chums embarked in an epic 12-pub crawl in his hometown of Newton Haven. The memory of that last glorious event in his life was all Gary had to hold on to through the years of failure that followed — even though they didn’t reach the last bar on their agenda, The World’s End.
Two decades later, an alcoholic and destitute Gary decides it’s time to give it another go — but not shockingly, all his friends have moved on and his relationship with them is tenuous at best. His former best mate Andy (Frost) doesn’t really want anything to do with Gary, but along with the rest of the crew he’s tricked into attempting the golden mile a second time.
Just one problem: Newton Haven isn’t the sleepy town Gary and co. grew up in anymore. For starters, all of the bars look the same — like Starbucks for alcohol. Oh, and some of the inhabitants bleed blue and have detachable heads.
The World’s End proves once again that Pegg and Frost are criminally underrated actors. Both have taken on radically different roles in each film of the trilogy and been uniformly excellent. Pegg has possibly the finest moment of all three films in this one.
The rest of the cast is wonderful as well — I’d be hard-pressed to think of a more likeable group than the one assembled here. Paddy Considine and Eddie Marsan, two actors better known for their dramatic work, slip easily into the Cornetto groove, as do the more recognizable Rosamund Pike and Martin Freeman (Bilbo!).
While the alien invasion plotline is admittedly goofy, Wright uses it for some interesting visual flourishes. (The bar fights were coordinated by Brad Allan, who’s worked extensively with Jackie Chan.) Even more effective is Wright’s critique of homogenization: consistency is celebrated and outliers like Gary are to be ostracized. But as he puts it: “It’s our basic human right to be fuck-ups.”
Equally strong is the emotional subtext: Gary’s core plight — the horrifying discovery that the highlights of our lives are no one else’s but our own — is both tragic and all too recognizable.
Not a bad achievement for a film that, on the surface, is about drunk blokes fighting aliens.