Review: The World's End
PLOT: After a failed attempt at an epic pub crawl years ago, five friends try and recapture their youthful endeavor. When they return to their hometown, things aren’t exactly the way they had left it. Soon, they realize that there is more at stake than just having a pint in twelve pubs as they may well be battling for the very existence of the human race.
This year finds the end of two very different yet surprisingly similar trilogies. In Richard Linklater’s BEFORE MIDNIGHT, he examines the once giddy romance from a sometimes painfully honest perspective. The couple who met in BEFORE SUNRISE and rekindled their romance in BEFORE SUNSET have now fully realized what they had given up and how exactly their lives could have been different in the terrific BEFORE MIDNIGHT. The same can be said for Edgar Wright’s finale in “The Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy.” With SHAUN OF THE DEAD, there was a sense of a giddy bromance between Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, while in HOT FUZZ the relationship grows and sacrifices start to become part of the equation. With THE WORLD'S END, the two men have come to the very painful realization that the glory years are gone and you can never go home again.
This connection may seem questionable, yet it is entirely fitting as the relationships for both couples progress in very real and entertaining ways. Certainly Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy play the same characters in Linklater’s films and are wonderfully inspired. In Wright’s hysterically funny and charming tales, his two lead actors take on three very different, yet emotionally rich characters. Generally, it is Frost that takes on the immature and self-absorbed bloke who Pegg is always covering for. This time around, however, it is Pegg who is given the opportunity to wallow in the aftermath of a man desperately holding on to what he once was… or at least thought he was. Whatever it is you think of Pegg’s Gary King, his performance is absolutely flawless. The relationship he shares with Frost (who is also fantastic) is phenomenal as well.
THE WORLD'S END is the final stop in an epic pub crawl, where five young men attempted to down a pint of beer in each of twelve pubs in their little town Newton Haven – the route fondly known as the “Glorious Golden Mile.” Their youth, inexperience, and bad luck prevented these lads from completing this arduous trek before. Of course, twenty some odd years later, King (Pegg) returns to convince his mates that they must attempt this daring feat once again. It is a tough sell as each of the men including Steven (Paddy Considine), Oliver (Martin Freeman), and Peter (Eddie Marsan) have moved on with their lives. Yet, once King convinces them that the hardest sell of all, their buddy Andy (Nick Frost), is willing to do it, they all agree. The problem is that now he must actually convince Andy to return to some very bad memories brought on by their complicated friendship.
The beauty of this trilogy is the sheer unexpected nature of what is about to happen in each and every film. THE WORLD'S END is no exception. Without revealing too much, once the boys ultimately attempt the pub crawl, they realize that something has taken over their fair town and it may be up to them to battle this mysterious invasion. There is much to be deciphered from the epic journey at hand. There is a real sense that for Gary King, his real enemy is the shaky nostalgia that keeps him from truly moving on with his miserable life. He lies, he cheats, and he constantly attempts to screw Oliver’s sister, Sam, played by Rosamund Pike, who makes a charming addition to the film. The entire cast is uniformly great, even the smaller roles of townspeople and assorted freaks. The five friend’s old teacher, Guy Shephard, is a bit of casting genius, one that I won’t give away.
As a director, Wright continues to become more focused, while still managing to invoke a sense of awe in the simplest of shots. It may be a pint being poured into a glass or the act of popping in a cassette tape in a car stereo, but either way he still makes it all engrossing. And when the over-the-top action begins, he capably handles the insane fight choreography to dizzying heights, for which he nearly always succeeds. My only minor complaint is the very ending which takes a slower pace and trades action for introspection. Still, with King’s emotional growth it makes more than enough sense and works towards a satisfying finish. Whether it is the head-crushing, limb-ripping violence or the spry and witty dialogue (with a script by Pegg and Wright) this is a satisfyingly dynamic film that seems a fitting end to what SHAUN OF THE DEAD and HOT FUZZ began.
THE WORLD'S END is gruesomely gooey and wonderfully clever without skimping on real three-dimensional characters. It may not live up to the laugh-a-minute humor that SHAUN OF THE DEAD infused, but it is still incredibly funny. The exuberant amount of energy on display makes for a compelling dichotomy with the very serious undertones of the fear that our characters face. Sometimes the smaller and more personal terrors have the biggest impact. Pegg, Frost and Wright are older and wiser, yet can still spin a delightfully entertaining comedic adventure. In the end, however, the biggest regret is that this year we have to say goodbye to both Wright and Linklater’s trilogies. While certainly different, each represents a growth for the talent on and off screen. Whether it was the funny and passionate romance of Jesse and Celine or the hilariously touching connection between Pegg and Frost, each film offered up some of the most well-written and compelling characters to ever grace the silver screen.