Film Reviews

The World's End Edgar Wright

Rating - 9/10


I think it’s safe to say that we all have something we regret never committing to in our youth. If you’re one of those “I live without regrets” kind of people and truly look back on a lost opportunity without a shred of melancholy, then you’re either A) so immensely sad and ignorant that believing in your own bullshit is the only way to cope with your day-to-day lack of vivacity or B) an entirely flawless specimen of living sentience whose very existence demands substantial scientific study. You are not human, go back to your banal existence on some paradisiacal star far away from dirty ol’ Earth. With that said, many of us terrestrial dwellers usually lament something of varying importance -- not learning an instrument, not pursuing a childhood crush, missing out on a day out with a relative long gone -- but how many people sour themselves over an unfinished pub crawl? Unfortunately, I can think of a few... 

In any case, this is the precise catalyst that drives The World’s End, Edgar Wright’s third and final installment in the loosely framed Cornetto Trilogy. Gary King (Simon Pegg) is a a drunken, middle-aged miscreant infatuated with the memory of one magical night in 1990 when he and four of his teenage friends attempted the “Golden Mile” -- a 12 pub booze-a-thon taking place over the course of a single night. Unfortunately, the buxom lads never finish the full mile, leaving an unsightly scuff in what is otherwise a luminous recollection in the mind of Mr. King. Twenty-three years on, Gary’s buddies have all moved on with their lives, settling down in London with stable careers and loving families. 

However, it seems Gary’s life stalled out somewhere around the age of 17 -- he wears the same clothes, drives the same car, and even listens to the same mixtapes from back in the day. Unable to let the pub crawl go, King sets out to reunite his childhood mates -- Peter (Eddie Marsan), Oliver (Martin Freeman), Steven (Paddy Considine), and Andy (Nick Frost) -- and finally finish the illustrious mile-long binge once and for all. But things are not what they seem back in their hometown of Newton Haven, and Gary King and the boys soon find themselves in the midst of a full-scale alien invasion. 

Even before the Sci-Fi bombast sets in, I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something off about the quaint little town of Newton Haven. Right off the bat, Edgar Wright builds an ominous atmosphere akin to that of The Omen or even The Wicker Man, which seems an odd fit for a comedy, but Wright makes it all work spectacularly. Slow moving wide angles, characters that stare off aimlessly without explanation, strange ambiguous lines of dialogue -- we’ve seen these elements before in the previous Cornetto entries, but they’re particularly potent here. But these little Wright-isms are more than stylish puck marks sprinkled in for filler, they genuinely build a feeling of tension and discomfort that, when interrupted by the bittersweet back and forth of Pegg and Frost, can only be met with immense laughter.

While the horror-tinged goofiness of The World’s End stays fresh for a good number of chuckles, it’s actually the underlying social satire that makes this film hilarious. There’s a brilliant moment when the characters realize that their favorite local stomping grounds have been effectively “Starbucksed” -- a reference to the gradual sterilization of quirky small town affects by the uninspired influence of corporate formality. Each pub seems to have been duplicated over and over: the same beverage selection, the same chalkboard menus, even the same coffee-shop-cool furnishing. Of course, as Pegg and company press on along their beer-y excursion, we realize that it’s not just the pubs that have been cleaned, conditioned, and cloned, but the townspeople too. 

As ludicrously Sci-Fi as The World’s End is, this rejection of a Starbucksed world -- of a coldly calculated smile masking any microcosmic sense of humanity and the gradual cheapening our ideas of sincere emotional connectivity -- is what truly allows the film to hit home. It’s an aspect of modern society that has literally seeped into every facet of our culture -- especially the film industry. Think about how many paint-by-numbers blockbuster films that were thrown into theaters this summer, how many times we saw the exact same movie reframed, repackaged, and regurgitated onto the mass public, and how many times we saw cinema-goers lap that bile up. And it hasn’t just been this summer that we’ve been subjected to this mundane routine, but every summer for at least the last 10 years of movie-making. It’s truly nauseating, isn’t it? 

But alas, the utter brilliance of The World’s End, and Edgar Wright for that matter, is that it acknowledges these trends and makes a conscious effort to politely break away from them. Sure, the alien invasion trope has been tossed about time and time again, but it’s not the premise that makes a movie original, it’s the execution. What Wright has done with the Cornetto Trilogy is not just an exercise in stylistic filming or a keen sense of wit, but a perpetually playful evaluation of the current pop culture landscape. It’s brainy without being pretentious, heartfelt without being sappy, and action-packed without being a masturbatory spectacle of special effects. What more can I say? Go see it!