The World’s End.
Let me tell you about my experiences with director Edgar Wright. A friend convinced me to go see Hot Fuzz in theaters and I ended up being floored by it. I somehow missed the Shaun of the Dead commotion, so I went back and watched that as well. Both of these were absolutely stunning visually and Wright’s technique behind the camera was creative and fresh. When Wright’s imagining of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World came out, I was blown away and it stands as one of my top 5 favorite films. So there’s a lot of pressure on The World’s End. Did it live up to my exceedingly high expectations?
A long time ago, in the small town of Newton Haven, five young men attempted to complete what is called the “the golden mile.” Twelve pubs, drinking a pint at each. Well, when they were young, they failed. So now, Gary King (Simon Pegg) reunites the group and they attempt to complete it, though it’s now nearly 20 years later. His hesitant buddies include Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, and Eddie Marsan. Though, as soon as they begin their night, they realize that something about the town has changed… But will they let that stop them from achieving the golden mile? Along the way, they reconnect with old flames (Rosamund Pike), old teachers (Pierce Brosnan), and the crazy old conspiracy nut who might’ve been right all along (David Bradley, of Harry Potter and Game of Thrones).
Wright’s vision here is impeccable. His familiar style of quick cuts and music-heavy action scenes is all intact. It’s exactly what I wanted. The style is fresh and compelling and crisp. The script is genius, cowritten by Wright and Pegg. The humor could’ve been over the top, but the understated British wit is perfect. Even while in a crazy fight scene, you’ll still get throwaway lines that will leave you in stitches. It’s also nice to get cameos from familiar faces from Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.
Simon Pegg is the ringleader in the group, but also the most dislikeable. He’s rude and raunchy and extremely self-serving, but the story starts to piece itself together and forms a compelling personal journey for him. It’s about more than just drinking 12 pints for him. He’s getting older and starting to realize how little he’s accomplished and is constantly stuck in his youth. It’s a great story and provides much more heart than Wright’s previous outings. When Pegg finally opens up, it’s poignant and harshly truthful. Pegg has a lot to work with here but nails the balance of outlandish rebel and being full of introspective regrets.
Frost also gets a lot to work with here, becoming more than just the aloof buddy figure. In this outing, Frost actually has his life together and has an intense backstory which is slowly revealed to us, about what’s happened in the past nearly 20 years. And damn, when he gets involved in the fighting, he is a beast.
Let’s talk about the action here. It’s incredible. The movie begins as typical straight comedy but when the first fight erupts… You know this movie is something else. It’s clean, not shaky. The choreography is astounding. The effects work is brilliant. Limbs are flying, ink is splattering the walls… It’s glorious. I had a smile from ear to ear when the first fight broke out in the bathroom of a pub. That fight scene alone convinced me that Ant-Man (one of Wright’s next projects, for Marvel Studios) might just be perfection.
What doesn’t work?
The only criticism I could give is that Pegg’s character is so unlikeable at the beginning that it’s hard to imagine these other four actually wanting to do the golden mile with him. Luckily, these characters all acknowledge this insanity and begin to acknowledge how little they actually like Gary King. So my only initial criticism was tackled…
Otherwise, near perfection.
On one hand, The World’s End is a sci-fi action adventure, where five men tear apart aliens and beat them with their own limbs. On the other hand, this is a story about a man who’s trying to recapture his glory days and coming to grips with growing up. With a monumental birthday on the horizon for myself, I found this story touching and poignant. This movie will have you laughing and then immediately on the edge of your seat. Perfect balance of two genres and pulled off masterfully by Edgar Wright, hands down my favorite director in the business right now. Must see.