The World's End (2013)
I was quite surprised by Edgar Wright's The World's End. Not by the fact that it is very funny, impeccably made, cinematically literate, with a cast of Britain's finest character actors. But by its very melancholic tone and sense of introspection. Behind the clever comedy and science fiction trappings, there is a rather pertinent examination of nostalgia and that fortysomething obsession with recapturing one’s youth. In some respects, the concept can be broadened into a wider notion of a nation that is still obsessed with its glory days. It should also be noted that this is not a romantic or rose-tinted exploration of the aforementioned themes.
The story centres around a group of school friends who reunite to reattempt a failed pub crawl they undertook twenty years earlier. Right from the outset, director Edgar Wright does something different to his last two instalments of the "Cornetto Trilogy". This time the central characters of Gary (Simon Pegg) and Andy (Nick Frost) are not best buddies and in fact have quite a prickly relationship. Gary is also not an especially likeable individual (but he is funny), having never moved on from his adolescence. The rest of the group consists of a superb ensemble cast of estate agent Oliver (Martin Freeman), car salesman Peter (Eddie Marsan) and Steven (Paddy Considine) who has a "26-year-old girl friend".
The ill-conceived reunion takes a very different turn when it becomes apparent that the village of Newton Haven, has been taken over by android replicants. This provides the production a wealth of opportunities to reference classic science fiction movies and novels (often with a very British slant). This includes John Wyndham's The Midwich Cuckoos, Don Siegel's Invasion of the Bodysnatchers and Doctor Who. The more you look the more you'll find. However, it is at this point in the plot when the movie changes direction, that The World's End becomes a little less polished and a bit more hit and miss. The action scenes work fine, especially the bar stool fight sequence, yet there is a sense that may be the movie is trying a little too hard.
Although the popularity of Pegg and Frost will make this movie accessible to an international market, this is still a very British movie. Where Rosamund Pike has made Hollywood productions such as Jack Reacher, the same cannot be said of the wonderful Mark Heap. Brits will recognise many a face. I'm not so sure the rest of the world will. Yet to have tried to avoid the foibles of British culture, such as roundabouts, social drinking, and English slang would have made for a weaker film. Although this is a movie with substantial amounts of CGI and set pieces, it is also a work of thoughtful self-examination through the prism of British self-deprecation. The codacil at the end of The World's End may not to all liking but is worth pondering upon.
The final part in any series, be it one as tenuous as the “Cornetto Trilogy", is always hamstrung to a degree of repetition, potential over familiarity and the practical restrictions a conclusion brings. The World's End is still a quality piece of film making from a genuinely talented team. It manages to avoid most of those pitfalls. Be warned there is some very choice language banded about including that particular word that some folk deem to be the worse. The frenetic nature of the final act does not diminish the movie which is still exceedingly and consistently funny. Finally, full marks to the writers for referencing the "Starbucking" of the UK pub industry. At least it is a malady that hasn't affected Edgar Wright's film making.