THE WORLD’S END. Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan, Martin Freeman, and Rosamund Pike. Directed by Edgar Wright. Rated MA15+. Restricted. (Strong coarse language and science fiction violence). 108 min.
This science fiction film combines fantasy and realism for comic effect. It is a difficult mix, but this is a film in which it succeeds.
Five men, who were friends in the ‘60s come together 20 years later to complete a pub crawl to a pub by the name of “The World’s End”. They travel to “Newton Haven”, the hometown where the pub is, to resume their drinking. During their crawl, they start symbolically with “The First Post” and move from pub to pub on their “legendary path of alcoholic indulgence” to The World’s End. They soon realise that Newton Haven looks oddly unfamiliar. The town has been taken over by aliens.
The movie is the third in a line of movies, called the Cornetto Trilogy. It follows “Shaun of the Dead” in 2004, and “Hot Fuzz” in 2007. All three movies celebrate in their own way the oddities and eccentricities of life. They have the same writing team (Wright and Pegg), the same lead main actors (Pegg and Frost), and they are all directed by Edgar Wright. The trilogy is linked by tone, rather than by content. It swops zombies (“Shaun of the Dead”) and gun-crazed cops (“Hot Fuzz”) for aliens.
As college students, none of them ever made it to The World’s End which was the final pub on their list. The five men are convinced to rerun their drinking marathon by Gary King (Simon Pegg), who insists that his mates find the famous pub that they all missed the first time. In the course of their drinking, they notice that the townspeople in Newton Haven look more grim-faced than usual. Getting into a fight with the local youths, they discover that the youths are robots that ooze a blue substance when hurt. Instead of sensibly retreating to London, they continue their crawl to find the fateful final pub. All the time while they drink, aliens from another galaxy roam the town, “merging” any humans they find into their own community.
Gary leads the group as an abrasive, bombastic individual who has never grown up. Andy (Nick Frost) hasn’t spoken to him for years, and is a corporate lawyer in the group with a grudge. Oliver (Martin Freeman) is an estate agent with a sister, Sam (Rosamund Pike), whom more than one of them likes. Peter (Eddie Marsan) is a car dealer, who is unhappy, and Steven (Paddy Considine) has a firm eye on the girls.
In the movie, the men drink, reminisce, argue, bond, fight, and try to re-state their identities. Each of them attempts to reconcile the past and the present, and the end of the world that they know is coming pushes them to contemplate the future. A night that starts in drinking, progresses to other things, and ends up with the group (or what is left of it) debating humanity with the alien force in a final show-down.
This is a film really about male camardadiere. It descends at times into matey British bonding, but it explores comically the limits of friendship in the face of adversity. Most of the men have made decisions in their lives that they regret, and demonstrate male insecurity in different ways. Their efforts to remain alive, when the end seems near, are backed up with moments of great humour, and this is helped by fast, witty scripting that has a fair amount of political incorrectness. Copious fight scenes with the aliens integrate very well, and the film as a whole is heavily nostalgic.
This is an unusual movie, full of routines that spread across action pieces not considered normally as comic. The acting is poignant and surprisingly realistic. Garry is obnoxious, for example, but you feel sorry for him, knowing that he has never learnt to grow up. Other members of the group want to change their life decisions, but you, and they, know that with what is about to happen most of them won’t be able to.
This is a smart comedy that is hard to categorize, and it has an obvious cult following. It is the final film in the series, and it is not necessary to have seen the other two movies in the trilogy in order to enjoy it.
Peter W. Sheehan is associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.
Out 1st. August, 2013.