The World’s End (2013)

10 Feb

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Smith’s Verdict: ****

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“The World’s End” is the supposed final entry in the “Cornetto” (or “Blood and Ice Cream”) trilogy, and I seriously hope that doesn’t mean writer-director Edgar Wright and co-writer Simon Pegg aren’t going to make any movies together, because with “Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz,” and now this, they make some of the most intriguing, entertaining, ambitious, wonderful films (not just comedies; that’s too easy) to give us the pleasure of seeing. I don’t know what it is; maybe they bring out the best in each other through each other. But I love all three of these movies. I would be first in line to the next Wright-Pegg collaboration.

The review has barely started and I must sound like a fanboy right about now. Let’s get right to it.

“The World’s End” stars Pegg as Gary King, a middle-aged man stuck in a stage of arrested development and always lives in the past. He recalls a time 20 years ago when he and his four best friends, when they were teenagers, embarked on a journey known as the Golden Mile, which is mainly a series of 12 pubs, with the World’s End tavern being the final stop. Gary looks back with fondness but also with regret since he and his friends didn’t make it to the World’s End. But he still likes to see himself as a king of cool, as back in his teenage days, he was a charismatic, daring teenager who felt like he could take on the world as opposed to actually dealing with real-life issues.

Nowadays, 20 years later, he’s a pathetic middle-aged man who still thinks things can return to the way they were, still drinks, and still sees himself as king-of-cool. He hasn’t aged mentally and doesn’t care how pathetic he looks to everyone else. His friends, meanwhile, have drifted away from him. They live their lives with jobs, marriage, families, etc. They get surprise visits from Gary, whose plan is to rally his group together to relive the old days and do it right this time. He manages to talk his friends (Andy, played by Nick Frost; Steven, played by Paddy Considine; Peter, played by Eddie Marsan; and Oliver, played by Martin Freeman) into returning to their hometown of Newton Haven and finish the Golden Mile.

The only reason the friends, one of which (Andy) holds a grudge against Gary, go along with Gary’s plan is because they feel worried about his way of living and because he said his mother died (which isn’t true). Gary becomes a little too much for them to handle at times, and the friends have to try and talk sense into him and bring up that what he’s doing isn’t healthy or welcoming, and he needs to grow up and face reality.

Oddly enough, this first part of “The World’s End,” which runs for about 35 minutes, proves that it would be a great, funny and effective movie about a reunion of old friends thinking about the old days and when their lives are like now. They notice what’s changed and what hasn’t changed, and that includes their first few pub-stops in Newton Haven, which have been cleaned up and “Starbucked.” Gary even finds that his old flame, Sam (Rosamund Pike), isn’t interested in Gary anymore.

Think Adam Sandler’s “Grown Ups” done right. There’s great writing (the dialogue and one-liners are absolutely wonderful and very funny) and great acting and it seems like the story is going somewhere mature with what it has already. And it kind of does, but…not quite in the way those who haven’t seen the trailers or read the plot synopses would have expected. Those who have are waiting for me to bring up the “blanks,” the nicknames the main characters give to the robot-alien-things that have invaded the town.

Yep. Gary and friends discover that Newton Haven has been invaded by an alien intelligence, and most of the townspeople have been replaced by blue-ink-filled, life-size action-figure like, robotic replicates. Rather than get the hell out of that town, Gary figures the best solution is to continue on the Golden Mile so as they don’t raise suspicion and thus don’t fall victim.

Makes sense to me.

Bottom line is that Gary came here to complete a pub crawl and he’s going to do it, no matter how many times his friends try to convince him otherwise or how many other messy situations they get into with the robots. Gary pours himself a pint everywhere they go and rarely lets anything stop him. No matter what other changes he’ll come across, Gary will not back down. Through all this madness, there is still time to keep true to the reunion story by taking time to bring up new issues about past, present, and future. It all manages to oddly fit together, mixing comedy, drama, and sci-fi to give us a spot-on satire and a gripping story at the same time. Also, this is probably the most personal story Wright and Pegg have put together, since the focus is mainly on Gary’s character and how he’ll grow despite not wanting to and not expecting to.

But of course, I cannot forget to talk about the action sequences. They’re very entertaining to watch, as we get some of the funniest fight choreography I’ve ever seen in a comedy. Great stunts and the right moves help make these scenes gripping action and fast-paced comedy. And in these scenes, be sure to rewatch them a couple more times on DVD because there’s a chance you’ll miss a couple things, it’s so fast. It’s edited energetically, much like the other films (as well as “Attack the Block,” a Wright production). The special effects are pretty damn good too.

Simon Pegg delivers what is arguably his best performance here. He’s been good in movies before; this is his most accomplished work. I could also say the same for Nick Frost, who has co-starred opposite Pegg in the other “Cornetto” movies. As Andy, the uptight businessman who constantly tries to talk some sense into his friend, Frost is very effective. That comes as a surprise, as Pegg is usually the straight-man and Frost is usually the jokester. Here, it’s the other way around, and Frost is wonderful here. The rest of the cast, which includes David Bradley as a crazy old man who knows the score and Pierce Brosnan in an uncredited cameo, perform well and make for an appealing supporting cast. I don’t know why, but seeing Martin Freeman with an earpiece and a suit trying to fight is a joy to watch.

Everything builds to a climax in which Gary faces off against the leader (who’s just a voice of reason, so to speak) of the aliens. I won’t give away the ultimate resolution, but let’s just say it’s very clever and leads to one hell of an epilogue that you don’t see coming and are nevertheless fascinated by (or at least, I was). Mainly though, “The World’s End” is a joyous experience. A ton of fun. A funny, slick, well-made film. There’s more I could say about this film that express how much I love it, but I’ll do you a favor and leave you to enjoy it for yourself. What else can I say but it’s time to look into the future. And in my future, there’s more viewings of this film.

Wait, doesn’t that go against the “don’t cling to the past” message?

Ah well, I’ll figure it out later.

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