Movie Review: The World’s End (2013)
“Fancy a pint, love?”
If you loved Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007), you will probably need no persuading to see The World’s End, the latest, and final, member of the Cornetto trilogy, written by Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg, and starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Cornetto is the name of a brand of English ice cream products that are hidden like Easter eggs in each of the three Wright/Pegg/Frost movies, which otherwise don’t seem to share a universe. This type of attention to detail, love of in-jokes, and ubiquity of obscure references typify the Cornetto trilogy, and The World’s End certainly does not disappoint on any front. The World’s End captures much of the silliness of Shaun, as well as the pub centered story arc and invasion of other-worldly creatures theme, but is not all sweet treat. There is a real center of angst, depression, and confusion underlying the silly melodrama, and it serves to give The World’s End an appropriately melancholic feel to a movie about…well…the end of the world.
The Golden Mile
The action of the film centers around a group of 5 men who were best of friends in high school in a idyllic, if dull, little town of Newton Haven. Led by the cocky and irascible Gary King (Simon Pegg) the students attempt the Gold Mile, a pub crawl of 12 pints and 12 storied establishments, ending with a final pint of bitters at The World’s End tavern. The youth fail, but fail splendidly, having the time of their lives, at least according to a washed out, grown up Gary King. The “5 Musketeers” have all grown up and gotten lives and jobs, except for Gary, who cons the old group into getting back together in Newton Haven to finally finish the Golden Mile. But something ominous lurks behind the pristine hedges and orderly lawns of the sleepy little town, and soon the 5 are on the run from forces seeking to control the town, and the world.
All’s Well that End’s Well
For their final outing, Pegg and Frost reverse roles, with Frost playing the reasonable, dependable center of the group, and Pegg playing the lovable loser who creates as much danger as he saves the group from. Pegg is a dynamo on screen, and you can work up a sweat just watching him sell the prat-falls and physical comedy of his character. The real surprise for many may be the nuanced and subtle straight man routine from Frost, who has always appeared the dancing bear of the group. Many notable UK celebrities get in on the fun, including Pierce Brosnan as the groups stodgy but caring high school teacher, and Rosamund Pike as the unfortunate sister to one of the Musketeers who is trapped in town with the boys. While the rest of the 5 Musketeers are less notable, they deliver some well timed moments of more traditional British humor that helps pace the more mad-cap moments of Wright’s script.
The script is a real gem, and Wright and Pegg manage to have it both ways at all times. As with all of the Cornetto set, the exposition of the film is pretty much a blueprint for how the rest of the movie with play, with suitable twists and turns of expectations. The youths’ 5 minute pub crawl scene in the intro is a miniature for how the movie plays out, and the genius of the Wright/Pegg movies is that no flippant line of dialogue, voice-over explanation, or apparent throw-away visual is ever wasted, with the writers layering meaning and humor into each. The film rewards repeat viewing just to see how a dull joke turns out to be a central motif, and how a quick pan of the camera foretells later events. You can almost be annoyed at the jokes, which are many and excellent, from distracting you from collecting all the mementos hidden in The World’s End.
Legend of Drunken Master
Nick Frost: Action Superstar?
It would be criminal not to mention the action sequences on display in this film. They are without a doubt some of the best choreographed fight scenes to come out since Jackie Chan stopped caring in the late 90’s. That they star two un-athletic Brits in their mid forties is only a compliment to how well they are shot. The fight sequences are straight out of a classic Kung Fu spectacle, and mimic the best of the best: up close grappling and circling of hands ala Jet Li, drunken boxing ala Jackie Chan, and even a pub umbrella used like a bamboo spear in an amazing outdoor scene where Rosamund Pike channels Michelle Yeoh. Very few quick-cuts and camera gimmicks are used, so you get a fight scene the way they used to make them, exquisitely paced and with each hit and dodge lovingly shot so as to be fully visible, not a shaken blur of CGI mess. Learn from this Hollywood. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost kick more ass, in better style here than Matt Damon, Henry Cavill, and a whole movie full of superheroes combined.
A Full Bodied Beer with a Nutty Flavor and Bitter Notes…
In the end (of the world) it’s not all jokes and drunken brawls. The movie touches on notes of depression and anger at growing old, and each character is fumbling with a life that is far short of how they dreamed it would be as young men. Even the successful characters are divorced or separated, holding family owned jobs they feel ashamed to acknowledge, or are just coasting by on a veneer of respectability. Wright and Pegg slip in some very sober views on growing up and how hard the dreams of youth die, and how they ultimately need to die in order to find more lasting happiness. Despite the frenetic comedy, and the bloody excellent fight scenes, The World’s End is exactly about endings. If you only see this movie expecting a boozy Beer Fest mentality, you won’t be disappointed, but perhaps after all the cheap suds, you’ll find yourself liking the more complex brew on offer here.