“The World’s End” is an intimate, chaotic, hilarious, and sentimental film about reliving youth and holding on to childhood friendships. Beneath the slapstick humor and crass jokes, there’s a sense of heart in this film that suggests the people involved in its creation really love the movie they’ve made. And they should. It’s a great film.
The story begins when Gary King, played by Simon Pegg, decides to get his high school gang back together to relive a night of drinking. He wants to complete the Golden Mile, a 12-pub challenge in Newton Haven, his hometown. Years ago the friends attempted the Mile but fell short. With nothing left in his life, Gary turns to his past. “It’s about closure,” he tells his old friends, emotionally manipulating the entire group into coming back for one more night.
Simon Pegg is the best he’s ever been as King. He may not seem like the ideal actor to pull off the cursing, sex-crazed bad boy type, but he does it masterfully. King is insufferable. He can never admit that he’s wrong and he’s obsessed with reliving his high school glory days. The character is not unique. You already know him. He has that tough exterior and charm that he only puts on to hide his deep, deep emotional issues. You’ve seen him before. But because of Pegg’s comic delivery, innate likability as an actor, and childlike approach to the role, we fall in love with Gary King the way that his friends do. He’s an annoying dick, but he becomes our annoying dick. And Pegg is very, very funny. Other actors in the film are hardly able to hold their own as Pegg flies through hilarious line after hilarious line.
King’s friends are made up of an impressive cast. Martin Freeman plays Oliver, an uptight real estate agent. Paddy Considine is Steven, an architect with a longtime love for Oliver’s sister. Eddie Marsan is Peter, the runt of the group who was horribly bullied as a child. And Nick Frost rounds out the group as Andrew, a lawyer ex-best friend to King. The two have major issues, which are explored throughout the film. Freeman, Considine, Marsan, and Frost play characters that are never fully fleshed out, but serve as brilliant conductors of light for King, the undeniable main character of the film.
The first half of the movie, where King rounds up his old friends and begins the Golden Mile, is so comfortable, so effortlessly funny that I found myself wishing the sci fi storyline would never come. It’s reminiscent of “Stand By Me,” if the boys had been older, raunchier, drunker, and 100% more British. These actors are masters of delivery, and the sharply written dialogue was enough to make even a simple conversation hilarious and heartwarming.
The second half of the film takes a turn for the chaotic when the group discovers that the town has been taken over by robots. Well, not robots because, “Robots are slaves, and they are not slaves.” The blanks, as they come to be called, are replacements for people in the town. They claim to be working for the betterment of humanity. It doesn’t add up until the end of the film and even then the premise doesn’t totally make sense. But it’s fun and it allows for amazing fight scenes.
Edgar Wright, the film’s director, takes every opportunity to show the blanks being torn apart. There are a number of long action scenes. Every character has inexplicably great fighting skills. Wright’s directing is as it always is: magnificent. In every pub we see unconventional camera shots while beer is being poured and quick angle changes. Even watching this film without any dialogue would be interesting. Wright is big on playing off expressions. He doesn’t need dialogue for humor. Gary King will say something ridiculous and the shot will quickly hover over the disgusted faces of every other character. It’s a tactic reminiscent of “The Office,” and it’s funny every time.
By the end of the film every character is completely hammered, and you’re not sure entirely how they got there. Because everything has spiraled out of control so quickly, the viewers are left in a drunken haze too. It’s miraculous.
This third installment in the “Cornetto Trilogy” has its fair share of references to “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz.” There’s the classic fence joke and a Cornetto wrapper sighting. Like both previous films, this comes down to Frost and Pegg. Their friendship is highlighted and it’s lovely and fitting.
The ending may not satisfy all viewers with its subtlety and loose ends, but it’s definitely one to discuss. Though the closing packed a surprising and sudden punch, it’s important to remember that this movie isn’t really about robots at all.
This is a movie about friendship. Sure, there are broader undertones. There’s some criticism about technological consumerism. There’s a big statement about humans being generally ridiculous, selfish, and unchanging, which somehow the film makes us proud of. But above all else, it’s a story about friendship. And really, I think those are the films that stand the test of time.