Edgar Wright’s finale to the Cornetto Trilogy’s The World’s End is finally upon us and it’s a suitably poetic and conclusive last call for Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s “man-child” dynamic duo.
At the end of high school a quintet of friends attempt an epic pub crawl around their town. Twelve pubs, twelve pints culminating at the final stop – The World’s End. The night was an intoxicated, messy failure. Twenty years later a frustrated Gary (Pegg), yearning to recapture past glory, reunites Oliver (Martin Freeman), Andy (Frost), Peter (Eddie Marsan) and Steven (Paddy Considine) to cathartically put it right.
After Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz you definitely expect that The World’s End is going to be fun, but what’s more pronounced than ever is the existential heart beating at the centre of the flick. Wright and Pegg explore the literal and metaphorical end of the world is nigh and it’s that dreaded milestone of forty (the end of the world that their younger selves likely perceived) is upon the characters.
While the rest of the group, particularly Andy (Frost) have all grown up. Gary’s arrested development whilst fun in comparison to his stuffy counterparts, is bordering on nee occupying ‘sad.” However, Gary’s nihilism and almost Young Ones-esque anarchistic attitude does seem more alive than the drab, slave like nine-to-five, suburban husbandry of his life long pals. With the exception of Steven (Considine), they’re all stuck in ruts professionally or emotionally. The harsh truth that youth, once burning bright like phosphorous can be steadily smothered by adulthood is the sombre reality.
That’s not to say that The World’s End is devoid of Wright and Pegg’s trademark “funny”. The bedrock of your home town changing without out you is the relatable gateway into the genre sandbox of some kind of alien invasion which turns this quaint village of eccentrics into a hive of oddity. The action sequences are nothing short of awesome.
With Jackie Chan’s former fight choreographer Brad Allen conducting the chaos there’s cheer inducing use of the environment to dispatch with their antagonists. Bar stools, tables, hand dryers, everything is a weapon. And like Scott Pilgrim, Wright infuses a Loony Tunes level of humour in every fracas. It was a huge highlight seeing Gary (Pegg) refusing to let go of a pint whilst ducking and weaving through the blows of multiple attackers; and Andy (Frost) hulks out like a champion while simultaneously berating Gary for landing them in this mess.
The more belligerent that Pegg, Frost and co. get along this journey the more hilarious they become. Chameleon Marsan shines as once bullied wallflower, now hen-pecked car salesman getting a necessary dose of drunken courage. And it’s Pegg and Frost’s rich and authentic performances, balancing the farcical and the heartfelt perfectly that anchor the film. Gary is easily just dismissed as frustrating until Pegg gives him a pretty profound alternate dimension. Whilst Frost’s stoicism as Andy is broken down with a barrage of shots (liquor), untameable empathy and an appetite for destruction.
The World’s End does something pretty special; it poetically captures the angst that fuelled their earlier collaborations (Spaced, Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) but doesn’t doom the boys to a life in Neverland. To paraphrase the iconic Winston Churchill, Wright’s The World’s End mantra feels like: if you’re growing through hell, keep growing.