When four old school mates reunite to finish a pub crawl that got the better of them back in the day, their fears of having changed too much to really go home again are abated by the fact that almost everyone in their home town has been replaced by alien robots.
Making a name for themselves on the pioneering British sitcom, Spaced, the team of Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg went on to become the true sweethearts of the genre community with their feature twists on well established filmic archetypes, first with Shaun of the Dead, their zombie outing, which despite being a comedy/horror displayed more character nuance and heart than any zombie flick before it, ensuring its appreciation on a relatively massive scale.
Their second feature, Hot Fuzz, an insane mix if British procedural and Hollywood action, was broader of character but featured more impressive action chops than perhaps any other British film outside the Bond franchise (which isn’t even really a British franchise).
The pair went their separate ways for a while, Pegg starring in a few big budget franchises before gathering a cracking cast for his own Hollywood feature, Paul, co-written by co-star, Nick Frost; but it was Wright who really impressed, setting himself as one of the pioneering directors of our time by co-writing and directing the woefully underappreciated Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, a film everyone assumed would find a wider following as time went on but has yet to really do so.
And so the pair have reunited for the last of their ‘cornetto trilogy’ (a trilogy in the spirit of the ‘dollars’ trilogy, y’know, no real story connection but the same star and director), and this time they’re tackling the sneaky alien invasion sub-genre via the lads reunite over a single night out sub-genre, and fans of their previous output needn’t worry, it doesn’t disappoint.
As should be expected, the tone and writing are both excellent, keeping the humour flowing throughout, The World’s End, as with Shaun, doesn’t shy away from very dark territory from time to time. Not to suggest that it ever becomes maudlin, the backdrop scenario is ludicrous and ever present, but the characters are fully formed and three dimensional ensuring that you genuinely care for them as their pasts are unravelled through the series of personal and physical conflicts.
On thinking about it in reflection, the number of tonal balls being juggled through this narrative is actually really quite remarkable and pulled off with seamless and deceptive ease. Plot and character revelations are dropped at perfect intervals to ensure that you are hooked and intrigued not only by the huge/stupid sci-fi storyline but also by the secret history of a number of the lead characters.
The humour, while not persistently-side-achingly hysterical, is never short of witty and smart, consisting of a heady blend of fantastic wordplay, broad slapstick and genre observation.
There’s also cleverer things afoot than is at first obvious, for example, take note of the fact that the name of each pub they enter reflects the direction of the story at that point.
Adding to the usual Pegg/Frost double act are tried and test British talents Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan and Rosamund Pike, most of whom are no strangers to both comedy AND heavy drama. It’s a great cast and they do a great job.
This being an incognito alien invasion film, in several respects, genre references abound, and while obvious are not overt; more appreciative nods, as it were, to such films as The Thing, Village of the Damned, and, of course, Invasion of the Body Snatches.
As much as all that is great and would’ve made for an entertaining movie, it wouldn’t be an Edgar Wright film if it didn’t go above and beyond the call of duty to some degree, and here Wright has really learnt his lessons from his time on Scott Pilgrim; the action in The World’s End is incredible, seriously some of the best fight sequences we’ve seen at the cinema all year.
The fight scenes, though fraught with peril, must reflect the absurdity of the story, and to do this a truly Jackie Chanian approach has been taken. People with a keen eye for action choreography will spot it straight away, the mixture of slapstick, frenetic non-stop movement, the use of everyday objects as weapons and the bone-shattering impacts; and they all culminate in something MORE impressive than anything The Great Chan has done in at least the last five years.
What’s more impressive is that in most instances it is actually the lead actors who are pulling off these moves. This is all possible because the incredibly talented Brad Allen was onboard as stunt coordinator and second unit director. Brad is one of the few Caucasian fellas to have ever made the cut as a genuine member of Jackie Chan’s stunt team and has subsequently worked independently with such directors as Guillermo del Toro, Mathew Vaughn and Bret Ratner. He knocks it out the park with this one, making a film, which is already a hell of a mixed bag, one of the most thrilling actioners of the summer.
The World’s End seems to be easily quantified from the outside, and is a fantastically fun and easy going watch, but on reflection is much more complex than it at first seems, its hidden depths being the thing that’ll have you revisiting it. It can be recommended to almost everyone who wants a good time at the cinema but is an absolute must for the team’s fanbase and genre fans in general.
B+ grade – for storytelling
B+ grade – for direction
B+ grade – for humour
B+ grade – for action
Overall grade – B+
The World’s End is currently on release in the UK with a US release set of August 23rd.