Filmmaker Edgar Wright has excelled exploring and deconstructing different genres; zombies in Shaun of the Dead and action cinema with Hot Fuzz. The World's End proudly wears science fiction influences on its sleeve, and has a ball doing it, but the personal character journey inward expertly trumps any lip service to a specific genre.
20 years after attempting an epic pub crawl as teenagers, five estranged childhood friends (Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman and Eddie Marsan) reunite in their hometown of Newton Haven to work their way through 12 pubs. Between drinks they begin to realise something is amiss in the village and the fate of the world rests on their boozy adventure.
The Worlds End opens with a nostalgic 40-something Gary King (Pegg) reflecting on the best time of his life from rehab told using an excellent 1990s inspired montage. Sitting in group therapy King looks worn out, as if life has never lived up to the glory of his youth, and in turn, King has failed to accept any responsibility. Wright establishes the concept of the past as an anchor that can define and entrap a person. In the ruins of adulthood King concocts the idea of going home to recapture a moment of happiness and in meeting the adult versions of King's friends, despite their professional and personal success, a small part of each character lingers in Newton Haven.
Besides King, each member of the drinking party bonds over their disdain for their birthplace but the source of their pain is slowly revealed by intricate scripting by Wright and Pegg. High school bullies, lost loves and unpaid personal debts all haunt the members of the drinking crew. Each character is aggravated to face their pain by a mysterious robotic force that has taken over the townspeople. The film has references to Invasion of the Body Snatchers and John Carpenter's The Thing but Wright never allows the nods and winks to define his film. Wright cleverly uses the sci-fi/alien invasion genre to let the drama bubble to the surface and examine the nature of friendship, accepting people for their flaws and the dangers of living in the past.
Wright heaps on the action with drunken bar room brawls and chase sequences all done with his frenetic directing style that features sharp editing and swift camera movement that's flows organically with each moment. When the plot kicks into overdrive it does feels a little overdue because Wright spends a lot of time keeping the film in neutral for the first half, but as soon as Mr Frost picks up a pair of bar stools, all bets are off.
The World's End is easily one of the most quotable films of 2013 with copiousness one-liners and hilarious quips. From the awkward interactions and arguments between the crew early on, to the drunken musings and conversations in the back end, it's consistently funny. Even when deep in drama there is enough time for a visual gag or jibe to jolt the film back into the realm of frivolity.
Pegg is a punk rock goofball who is deplorable but slowly becomes a loveable rogue. The amazing feat Pegg manages to pull off is a Philippe Petit level balancing act between antagonist and protagonist. Frost manages to pull off the serious corporate type while devolving into a ruffian when alcohol hits the bloodstream. Pegg and Frost are dynamite together which is important because their confrontations are central to the big revelations of the film. Considine is great pining over the lovely Rosamund Pike and Freeman is great as a slick real estate agent. Subtly, Marsan steals most of The World's End as a kind hearted family man who seems a little out of place amongst the binge drinking but always has a silly smile on his face.
The World's End wildly smashes through a genre to reveal an outstanding tale of mateship.
[rating=4] and a half
Cameron Williams - follow Cam on Twitter here: @popcornjunkies