The World’s End: Old Friends Unite For Hometown Pub Crawl and Nostalgia

by Sandra Olmsted

Writer-Director Edgar Wright’s The World’s End combines the nostalgia of attempting to “go home again” as Thomas Wolfe warns no one can and science fiction’s dystopia and alien invasion to mediate disappointments the main characters discover in the changes to their hometown and to themselves.

The film opens with a grainy flashback, narrated by Gary King (Simon Pegg), about the best night of the best time in his life: Circa 1990, he and his best buddies attempted “The Golden Mile,” a twelve pub crawl for which their hometown, Newton Haven, is famous. Gary turns this pathetic defining moment into an action plan, and as the leader of the pack, he sets off on a mission to gather the old gang and finish “The Golden Mile” once and for all.  Twelve pubs, twelve pints, one night to reconnect with, relive, and rid himself of the past.

When Gary shows up, his old buddies aren’t really that glad to see him but each agree to go along because Gary promises that now corporate attorney Andy Knightley (Nick Frost) is. While Gary is still living like a kid, his old friends have experienced the successes and failures of growing up. Architect Steven Prince (Paddy Considine), intelligent and recently divorced, works in construction; he also seems a more natural leader for the group.

Peter Page (Eddie Marsan), the henpecked husband and overshadowed son, works in his father’s car dealership, and although a partner, his father is still firmly in control of his job and his life. Oliver Chamberlain (Martin Freeman), a wealthy, high-powered real estate agent, is glued to his Bluetooth and intent on making sale after sale.  Now Gary must convince his once very best of friends Andy, who has a good reason to hold a grudge against Gary, to join his merry jaunt down memory lane. It’s going to be a tough sell because Andy is still angry and doesn’t drink as a result of the mysterious event that ended their friendship and broke up the old gang.

The adventure, including a brush with the police, initially reminds them of what they lost and how they all enjoyed each other’s company because the five of them made, in some odd way, a perfect whole. Soon old rivalries ignite, such as when Oliver’s sister, Sam (Rosamund Pike), briefly joins them. While Gary firmly believes she still loves him, she may have eyes for another of the friends.

There are other disappointments, too. Andy’s refusal to drink is defended by Steven, Peter, and Oliver, much to Gary’s consternation. While each pub used to be unique, now they are all oddly the same. Their contemporaries, who made lives in Newton Haven, don’t seem to remember the five men who Gary thinks were the best to come from the town and whose youthful exploits still inspire awe. In The Famous Cock, they meet Basil (David Bradley), a local known for crazy stories, who warns them about leaving their saliva on empty glasses and drinks his beer through a crazy straw. They encounter their former drug dealer, now Reverend Green (Michael Smiley), in The Trusted Servant. By the fourth pub, Steven, Peter, Oliver, and Andy have had enough and are making this the last pint until . . .

Remember, writer director Wright and co-writer and star Pegg are the creative geniuses behind the 2004 cult classic Shaun of the Dead and the 2007 action comedy Hot Fuzz, so expect the completely unexpected and prepare to be delighted by the wacky tale that unfolds.

In The World’s End, Wright and Pegg brilliantly combined the disillusionment inherent in trying to recapture one’s youth and relive the past and then provide social commentary with their unique genre bending. While Wright and Pegg haven’t deviated from their pattern of tucking a realistic negotiation of life’s struggles into a science fiction or horror film, this one is probably the most mature thus far of “Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy.” Named for an ice cream treat that comes wrapped in a brightly colored wrapper, this installment of the trilogy also has several other elements that should be paid attention to. They include: The name of each pub is related to the events that transpire there; the last names of the five friends, for example King and Prince, are all title from a royal court, and the opening narration foreshadows what happens to the characters during the film. It all adds up to a finely crafted B-movie parody.

The World’s End has stellar acting and good chemistry among the main male characters, and the talented Pike as Sam adds a female view point. The film evokes Village of the Damned and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and the deliciously retro music, curated by Steven Price, includes nostalgic tunes from the late 80s and early 90s. Director of Photography Bill Pope deftly blends the dramedy look with the scifi look so that the characters have room to grow and to fight those …

I won’t spoil it even if the trailers do. In theaters now, The World’s End, a  Universal Studios/Focus Features release, runs 109 minutes and is rated R for pervasive language including sexual references.   (More of Olmsted’s reviews can be found at www.thecinematicskinny.com.)



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