The World’s End – review

The World's End: the final movie Edgar Wright's 'Cornetto' trilogy

The World’s End: the final movie Edgar Wright’s ‘Cornetto’ trilogy

The long-awaited finale to the so-called ‘Cornetto trilogy’ is a welcome piece of apocalyptic fun, if you can accept the paradox, in a summer of overblown, CGI-heavy apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic blockbusters, such as Pacific Rim and Oblivion.

The World’s End is the final instalment of said “trilogy” and sees comic duo Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, as well as their long-time friend/director/collaborator Edgar Wright, sign off in style. This terrific threesome have conjured up the comedic zombie film, Shaun of the Dead, the murder mystery/buddy-cop spoof, Hot Fuzz, and before their moves to the big screen they delivered Spaced, one of the most iconic indie sitcoms, which kick-started their trademark nostalgic and cultural-reference-laden style.

In between Hot Fuzz and The World’s End, the director and the stars branched out separately, as Edgar Wright created Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, before Pegg and Frost combined for alien road movie, Paul. Finally they have reengaged to put the flake in the ice cream and round off the Cornetto trilogy, with a pub crawl to end all pub crawls.

The World’s End sees a bunch of old schoolmates reunited after 20 years to complete ‘The Golden Mile’ pub crawl in their old local town, which they never managed to finish back in the day. There is a horde of familiar faces from previous movies and from Spaced – Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman, Mark Heap, Julia Deakin, Michael Smiley – similarly returning to close unfinished business.

As you have come to expect with Pegg/Frost/Wright, there is more than meets the eye, so we have not just got friends reunited, we soon have the discovery of aliens living amongst the locals. The town has changed since when the friends were at school in more ways than one.

Sceptics might say we have seen this concept before, just in slightly different scenarios. With Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead, our heroes have to battle the infected, controlled or manipulated locals, while recent Frost vehicle, Attack the Block, sees aliens taking over a South London council block. Are they rehashes or are these just sci-fi themes close to their hearts with scenarios within which they input their favourite film, TV, music references and reminisce about the old days, whilst having a lot of fun doing it?

There are always autobiographical elements to the characters and the locations in their work. The village of Sandford in Hot Fuzz – whose residents are obsessed with winning the ‘Village of the Year’ award – was filmed in Wells, where Wright used to go to school, The Winchester pub in Shaun of the Dead was filmed in The Duke of Albany in New Cross, but based on an old haunt of Pegg’s in Highgate, and The World’s End pub in this film of the same – the last stop on the pub crawl – is a nod to Camden’s famous rocker pub, where Pegg and Frost frequented whilst filming Spaced and also happens to be perfectly named for an apocalyptic tale such as this.

The plot of The World’s End is fairly straightforward. Man-child Gary King [Pegg] rounds up a reluctant group of old school friends to go back to rural Newton Haven – filmed in Hertfordshire locations such as Welwyn and Letchworth – to try to succeed where they once failed, in taking on the legendary pub crawl.

Trouble is, things have changed and they have changed. Andy [Frost], Steven [Considine], Oliver [Freeman] and Peter [Eddie Marsan] have got proper jobs, settled down and conformed. They are not reckless youths anymore, with no responsibilities. Well, tell that to ‘The King’! The legend-in-his-own-mind has not allowed himself to be shackled and is still a free-spirited, beer-guzzling, goth-clad character ready to paint the town red and finish his boozy mission.

It is great to see the roles reversed for Pegg and Frost, as Frost is normally the feckless waster who is always dragging down his loyal buddy, whereas here we see him, for the most part, playing the straight man who has grown to detest his selfish and irresponsible former friend. In fact, Andy is tee-total and Gary is appalled by his insistence on drinking pints of water rather than lager. Pegg is in his element, revelling in this role of the obnoxious, alcoholic conductor of carnage, but ironically Pegg has been tee-total for over three years.

Gary is stuck in a time warp – he owns the same car (‘The Beast’), clothes and catchphrases from the last attempt at The Golden Mile all those years ago – and beneath the bravado is a man with real issues, in terms of his alcohol and his lack of progression in life and he even hints a possible root of the cause, stating that nothing has matched the buzz of that night 20 years before.

However, amidst the chaos that ensues, once they realise that the residents of Newton Haven have been replaced or enslaved by an aliens, we learn that Gary’s friends may not have the perfect, settled lives that they seem to have. As the “musketeers” take on the pub crawl, the aliens and the demons of their pasts, they encounter some more old faces, such as former teacher [Pierce Brosnan], Eddie’s school bully and Oliver’s sister, Sam [Rosamund Pike], who also happens to be a girl that both Gary and Steven had a huge crush on as teenagers.

The World’s End is an apt way to sign off for Wright, Pegg and Frost, if this is indeed to be their last collaboration of this kind, and it is every bit as good as their previous efforts. You will laugh, reminisce and root for the battling boozers, and ironically, despite the self-destructive tendencies on show, you will probably leave the cinema considering planning your next pub crawl.

The World’s End (15)
Directed by Edgar Wright
Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Rosamund Pike, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan, Mark Heap, Pierce Brosnan, Bill Nighy, David Bradley.
Running time: 109 minutes

The World’s End is showing at the Hackney Picturehouse in July and August.