Being a great fan of the collected works of Edgar Write, Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, The World’s End was not so much of a cinematic experience for me but a ceremonial one. After spending my adolescence with films and TV such as Spaced, Paul, Scott Pilgrim and Money, to watch the third and final instalment of the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy is as much a rite of passage was my Holy Communion.
Focusing on the relationship between a maturity stunted Gary King (Simon Pegg) and the band of merry men who left him behind, The World’s End sets them on a journey to reclaim lost glories by finally completing the pub crawl they started twenty years ago. Well Gary does, he tricks them into believing the rest are all up for it. Actually they are all quite happy to carry on with the lives they have created for themselves outside their old hometown of Newton Haven. Wouldn’t have been a bad idea to refuse either, seeing as the town has been taken over by outer space robots, assimilating the townsfolk into an army of remorseless killing machines. This leaves our hero’s to fight their way out of the town and the only way to escape is through The World’s End, the final pub on a twelve bar crawl.
A mixture of glorified man children and responsible grownups taking the fight to a group of mindless conformists? Well this is definitely a Three Colours Cornetto movie. However for The World’s End following a nine year old formula actually works to its credit and not its detriment. This is because as a pair or scribes Pegg and Wright have the imagination to come up with new perspectives on this twice already told story. They have the ability to keep things fresh whilst also retaining their authenticity, a hard balance to maintain.
One of the ways that the movie achieves this is by swapping the traditional casting of long time screen partners Pegg and Frost. This time around Pegg is the obnoxious, job dodging, chancer while Frost is the rent paying, suit wearing, goody two shoes. It’s a good call because these are the finest performances either has ever given. Pegg’s character while hugely divisive (I have never believed that you have to like a protagonist to enjoy a movie presented from their perspective) has a kind of transparent arrogance that does more to expose his pain than mask it. The way he hides himself in a leather jacket and sunglasses to conceal his anxiety, the way his wide grins uncover the wear and tear on a face long beaten down by life. Frost is constantly hiding a deeply buried rage that slowly reveals itself the drunker he gets. As the film progresses their armour is beaten away and how they have truly lived their lives to this point is finally revealed. It makes for the deepest exploration of Frost and Pegg’s characters in the whole trilogy.
Another highlight are the fight scenes which prove you don’t have to be bloody to be brutal. The best since The Raid, The Worlds End continues the changing trend of using steady cams not hand held shaky ones to show us the action. Wright is a savvy enough director to know that having the camera react physically to the action as opposed to stylistically nauseates the audience and obscures their vision. By using steady cams he shows himself to be a man who is in total control of his film’s scope, scale and budget, never needing cheap tricks to blind the audience to the limitations of the production. I just wish they didn’t over use the bit where Gary pulls off a robots arm to smash its head in.
It could almost be more of a martial arts film than a science fiction one but Wright and Pegg know how to write a genre picture and adapt it to work in the confines of a Great British Pub. The film is peppered with references to fifties paranoia, sixties reactionary and seventies protest. Once the science fiction elements are revealed to you the film never lets you forget where its inspirations lie or that it has created something wholly original from their seeds.
The one aspect that might not work is how this film takes such a sharp turn into science fiction. There are no allusions to the genre for the first half hour and suddenly the film slaps you in the face with blue blooded robots that look like humans. The references are all there on repeat viewings but if this is your first time sparking up a Wright joint you might feel the plot takes too sharp a turn with too little indication. In fact those who have seen the first two films have so much more potential to see the little Easter eggs Wright has hidden everywhere. Wright isn’t afraid to reserve some laughs for the faithful, sometimes weakening the films comedy for the rest. But seeing the film twice (or just keeping a really keen eye out the first time) most certainly has its rewards.
Whether the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy is to you a rallying cry against conformity, a parable about becoming a man without having to leave your childish things behind or simply a love letter to the British Public House, The Worlds End is an excellent ending to this iconic trilogy. It almost seems sacrilegious to say it but it might be even be the best film of the three.