The World’s End Movie Review- “It’s Almost As If Drinking Makes People Sad…”
The following is presented free of any major spoilers.
Trailers have a bad habit of being a little misleading. They have a bad habit of making Inglourious Basterds look likes it’s about the Basterds, or making Michael Bay’s The Island look like a thought-provoking drama on cloning, or making Man of Steel look good. They’re a marketing tool, and often a marketing tool that doesn’t truly understand what exactly it’s marketing.
I bring this up because if you were just to look at the trailer for The World’s End, you’d think you were walking into a joyful romp about boys being boys, getting drunk and fighting a few robots. Simply watching those two-minute segments, it would be easy to walk in expecting another silly and light sci-fi spoof, somewhere halfway between Spaceballs and a Judd Apatow comedy. What you’d miss is an unbelievably dense and thought-provoking piece of film that is probably the best film I’ve seen all year.
That’s not to say that the film isn’t funny. It’s actually hilarious. All five of the main actors do a bang-up job and turn in five very different but still incredibly funny performances. It’s just that the film forsakes what could be many great scenarios for jokes and decides instead to inject itself with a level of pathos and philosophy on the human condition that really, simply could not be anticipated. In fact, of the “Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy” (a thematic trilogy of films directed by Edgar Wright and starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in the principle roles, beginning with Shaun of the Dead, continuing through Hot Fuzz, and wrapping up here) The World’s End is easily the least funny of the three but probably the best “film” of the bunch.
As far as the plot goes, it’s wisely kept very simple. Five friends from high school decide to reunite and return to their hometown to finish the pub crawl they started one fateful night but had to stop a few pubs short due to reasons too funny to mention here. The crusade is led by Gary King (Simon Pegg, playing completely against type), a man so stuck in the past that he doesn’t seem to own or use anything pioneered after 1992. Using his own innate charisma and some hard-won pity, he manages to convince all of his buddies to go along with his insanity one last time. Those friends are Andy (Nick Frost, finally playing the straight man), Stephen (Paddy Considine, a divorced contractor who meets up with an old flame), Oliver (Martin Freeman, as his typical fuddy-duddy curmudgeon- this time equipped with a Bluetooth and a catchphrase), and Peter (a damaged man with a wife and kids who probably got a little too abused in high school).
The film depends a lot on your affection not only for Simon Pegg, but for your love of the Pegg/Frost duo we’ve grown to love these past nine years. Gary King is perhaps the least likeable character Edgar Wright has ever put on film, even including David from Shaun of the Dead, and it really only is through the inspired casting of Simon Pegg that we don’t absolutely loathe him. In any other world, the part would be played by Johnny Depp and I would want to punch him in the face in a less loveable way. And putting Frost in the position diametrically opposed to Pegg is a stroke of genius, because we as the audience, who have watched these two in three previous films, don’t want them to be at odds. We want them to be buddies. We want them to have good times and eat Cornetto and make genre parodies, but they’re not really doing that here. Andy is angry at Gary for reasons that aren’t explained until late in the film and it’s because of our attachment to these two as a bromance that makes this work so unfathomably well.
That’s maybe the thing that impresses me most about the Pegg/Frost pair. Not only are they incredibly funny, but they’ve also never done the same dynamic twice. Tim and Mike from Spaced are nothing like Shaun and Ed from Shaun of the Dead are nothing like Angel and Danny from Hot Fuzz are nothing like the boys from Paul are nothing like Gary and Andy in The World’s End. They are ten very diverse and interesting performances, forming ten unique covalent bonds, all from the same two guys.
Confession time: Shaun of the Dead is my absolute favorite film of all time, and Edgar Wright is my favorite filmmaker. My expectations for this movie were so, so high that it’s a miracle that this flick managed to blow me away in the way that it did.
And speaking of Wright, he’s in top form here. His signature are all on display here (quick cuts, clever transitions, whip pans of all sorts) and I don’t believe they’ve ever been better. Wright obviously learned a lot from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, and the action here is absolutely top-notch. It’s clear and precise, without an ounce of shakey-cam to be found. If you walk out of the theatre not instantly wanting to see the Edgar Wright Ant-Man film we’ve got coming to us, then there’s nothing I can do for you. You are beyond my help. The film is also photographed so, so beautifully. The reds are so red and everything feels aptly lit to the situation at hand.
As we have come to expect from the Cornetto trilogy, the script from Pegg and Wright is impeccable. Every moment is blissfully, beautifully set-up, and every joke seems to have his proper pay-off. The pair obviously have a lot to see about expectations and making mistakes and the very difficult nature of growing up, and they show that all with aplomb. I’ve heard of a few people who took issues with the ending, but I think it was perfectly succinct with the rest of the flick and allowed me to have a philosophical discussion with my friend Dan on the way home from the theatre.
If the film has an issue, it’s that Rosamund Pyke hardly even has a character and I can get through an entire review without even mentioning her once. I felt initially that the flick started off a bit slow and took a bit to get going, but after finishing it I know that all of that information was necessary to the greatness that follows.
Final Verdict: A- – A hilarious and deeply touching movie about growing older and learning to live with yourself, The World’s End stands as a fitting end to what may be cinema’s greatest trilogy.
Chekhov’s Gunman is a film and television blog moderated by Kevin Lanigan, a future writer of movies and television and current writer of scathing reviews of Elysuim to be up later today. Be sure to follow or subscribe above and be sure to tell me I’m wrong in the comments.
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