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The World’s End (2013)

August 23, 2013

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written by: Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg

produced by: Nira Park, Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner

directed by: Edgar Wright

rating: R (for pervasive language including sexual references)

runtime: 109 min.

U.S. release date: August 23, 2013

 

There’s been a run of apocalyptic sci-fi movies lately, many fall  in the drama or action genre with dazzling visuals yet convoluted or formulaic storylines – cough (ahem), I’m looking at you, “Oblivion” and “Elysium”.  As I’ve begun to feel the aches of “apocalyptic fatigue” this year, I’ve come to realize I’d rather laugh off the end of the world than fight for humanity’s future. It took watching Edgar Wright’s “The World’s End”, the end of what’s being called “The Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy” (apparently it’s a delectable frozen dairy treat, I had to Google it), to remind me of that.

“The World’s End” isn’t just the title of Wright’s latest film, it’s a place located in Newton Haven, a small town outside of London. It’s the last tavern in a twelve pub crawl, called “The Golden Mile”, that teenage Gary King (Thomas Law) and his four mates never made it to back in 1990. They were too wasted to continue and then there was the drugs and a car crash and – well, that was that.

But that was also, as adult Gary (Simon Pegg) now narrates, the best night of his life. A night he now wants to complete. It’s not that their inebriated tour is on some bucket list of his, it’s simply all he’s got. His life sucks twenty-three years later and he wants to relive that glorious night and return to a time when he was the cool and charismatic leader of a fun group of guys.

To do this right though, Gary is determined to orchestrate a reunion. You know, get the band back together. This is a great idea – to him. While all his pals have moved on to the responsibilities of adulthood, Gary hasn’t gone anywhere. Oliver (Martin Freeman) sells real estate, Peter (Eddie Marsan) sells cars for his father’s company, Steven (Paddy Considine) runs a construction business and Andrew (Nick Frost), Gary’s wingman is now a corporate executive. They are flummoxed and apprehensive to have an enthusiastic Gary, still dressed in all-black with his Sisters of Mercy T-shirt (to match the Sisters of Mercy tattoo on his chest) visit them at their jobs, promoting a reunion that none of them have thought twice about.

 

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But there they go, relenting to Gary’s badgering, as they meet up once again. There’s no use arguing with Gary. He’s the type of friend who’s always right. Maybe the idea of partaking in nostalgia for a weekend is just too inviting or maybe Gary really is that persuasive. It’s awkward at first, as the four men collectively cannot believe that Gary is still really the way he was over twenty years ago. He’s almost an hour late to pick them up in the same car (affectionately called “The Beast”) they used to tool around in and even still has the cassette tape that Steven made him for him years ago in the deck, cranking The Soup Dragons “I’m Free” and Primal Scream’s “Loaded”. The foursome make the most of it, as they find themselves once again following their once-cool-now-incorrigible leader.

At first, the road trip back in time isn’t as smooth as the oblivious Gary might have wanted, with the interplay awkward for his friends (not that he notices), who haven’t stayed in touch over the years. There are those silences that seem to go on forever you have with someone you meet up with at a high school reunion. You remember them as they were back then, but you know that you’ve both changed. So, what do you say?  Since Gary hasn’t changed, he can’t relate either. He naturally revels in it, “I’m still the same!”, he tells Sam (Rosamund Pike), Oliver’s sister (who both Gary and Steven pined for back in the day) who meets up with them as they make their way from pub to pub.

Almost halfway into the famed crawl though, the five friends start to notice some odd peculiarities about their hometown. It’s not the homogenized gentrification of their old haunts, which Steven accurately calls “Starbucking” (although that bothers them), it’s how everyone in town seems so docile. From the folks walking around town to the patrons in the bars, their strange behavior becomes more and more noticeable. They soon stumble upon a secret conspiracy involving mechanical aliens made to look like humans which unifies the quintet, who suddenly find themselves fighting for their lives, while Gary remains committed to completing his quest to have a pint in all twelve destinations.

 

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I really didn’t want to mention that last part, even though it’s a big part of the picture. I knew the whole alien element was coming (and thankfully it’s more “Body Snatchers” and “They Live” than it is anything bloated by CGI) going in, but the twentysomething girl sitting next to me at the screening last night did not. As soon as we saw Gary rip the head off a supposed teen punk and blue blood came spewing out, this girl had her hands up in a “What the….?!?!” reaction.

At first I wondered what kind of movie she thought she was getting into. But she (and her friends) was digging the big reveal and the action and laughs that followed. I liked her reaction. It made me smile and reminding me that movies can still delight and surprise. It made me feel like a teen again, back when I only saw trailers in theaters or saw the first images of a movie in Starlog or some other movie rag.

I have no clue if this girl has seen “Shaun of the Dead” or “Hot Fuzz”, the first two in the Wright/Pegg/Frost trilogy (Pegg co-wrote both with Wright and Frost starred as his best bud in each), but my hope is anyone seeing “The World’s End” will seek them out for the first time or revisit them like I plan to. Each of them lovingly pays homage to specific genres, like horror, action and now sci-fi, in a clever and hilarious manner. Like those other two films, “The World’s End” will have anyone well-versed in genre conventions nodding their head and smiling at the references to older movies.

While the whole “getting the band back together” is as familiar a subgenre as reunion movies (from “Bachelor Party” to “The Big Chill”) and the idea of aliens replacing humans isn’t anything new, it’s still immensely enjoyable to see this cast take a crack at them.

And therein lies the big draw to “The World’s End” – the cast. (Yes, the script is good too, more on that in a minute). It’s great to see Pegg and Frost team-up again (who were last seen dealing with aliens in “Paul”), but Considine, Marsan and Freeman are some of my favorite UK actors working today. It’s also great to see David Bradley (Argus Filch, from the “Harry Potter” movies), Michael Smiley (“Kill List”) and Pierce Brosnan show up as key locals. Also, listen for the voice of Bill Nighy as well, who goes from otherworldly exposition to resigning frustration.

 

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It’s the main five that fit into their roles so wonderfully though. They provide fun nuances and ticks to their characterizations as they knowingly play to a certain type the audience may recognize, yet they’re having fun nevertheless. I could sit and watch these guys hang out together in just about any genre. They’re that much fun to watch and study. That’s right, “study”. Watch closely or you’ll miss how these actors work off each other and all the comedic nuggets they bring. Moments of quick utterances, rat-a-tat dialogue and expressive reactions are the equivalent of comedic money shots.

It also helps, that, like their other movies, Wright and Pegg have penned a script that adds pathos and authenticity to the characters and even some poignancy to their friendships, especially the roles Pegg and Frost play. The tight, fast-paced editing, Wright’s signature, is present as is several in-jokes, the names of the different locations on their pub crawl map: The First Post, The Old Familiar, The Cross Hands, The Two-Headed Dog, The Mermaid, The Beehive, and so on….all appropriately named to coincide with how the storyline unfolds.

Raise a glass to cinematographer Bill Pope (“The Matrix” movies and Wright’s “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”) and stunt coordinator Brad Allen, who elevate the vibe and pace of the movie, providing the right tone and (thankfully) decipherable choreography. “The World’s End” offers probably the best far fight I’ve seen since “Roadhouse” and that’s enough to recommend it right there. For those nostalgic to return to the early 90s British pop rock that you cranked back in the day, the soundtrack here will be another reason to crack a knowing grin.

“The World’s End” demands repeat viewing with plenty of friends (new and old) and flowing hops and barley. If this is the end of a trilogy, so be it – but, let’s hope that it’s not the last time we’ll see Wright, Pegg and Frost getting together to entertain us.

 

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RATING: ***1/2

 

 

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One Comment leave one →
  1. windi permalink
    August 23, 2013 8:16 pm

    definitely want to see this! LOVED Shaun of the Dead!

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