This evening I had the pleasure to attend an advanced screening of Edgar Wright’s apocalyptic follow-up to the incredible Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead; The World’s End. The event began with a mandatory marathon of what is now known as the Cornetto Trilogy after the drumstick-like ice cream cone seen in each film, and ended with a personal Q&A session with Director Edgar Wright and stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. As an enormous fan of the trio’s first three films, I can’t even begin to tell you excited I was for the evening and it did not disappoint in any way. The fact that I’ve now shaken hands with two of my favorite modern directors within the past two months aside, the film itself managed to exceed all of my forcibly tempered expectations and as a result it has set a new bar for me in the race for Best Film of 2013. The World’s End takes a little while to get going, but once it does it not only meets the sterling standard of excellence set by the previous two films but also reaches a new level of emotional depth for the entire trilogy.
The Plot: 9/10
Five friends who reunite in an attempt to top their epic pub crawl from 20 years earlier unwittingly become humankind’s only hope for survival.
When it comes to originality and unpredictability, Hot Fuzz set the bar pretty damn high. There are a lot of reasons why the film remains one of my favorite comedies of all time, but one of the most significant of those reasons is the even as a comedy (a genre which usually makes no effort whatsoever to create a remotely interesting or original plot) and as a pseudo-parody (typically the laziest sub-set of comedy there is), Fuzz threw convention to the wind and gave us one of the most delightfully unexpected and darkly hilarious plot twists I’ve ever seen. While there’s no one central twist in The World’s End to match it’s predecessor, it continuously makes use of every ounce of its unique premise. The story takes central themes of debilitating nostalgia and human fallibility and weaves in bits of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Stepford Wives and several other science fiction classics which are referred to in spirit but never by name. For more details you’ll just have to wait and see it yourselves when it comes out next month.
The Writing: 10/10
The team of Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg have yielded amazing results over the two’s past few collaborations, and it was great to see The World’s End make use of so many of the little touches to the writing that made the first two films stand out. I’ll speak to the comedic side of the writing below, but before I do that I’d like to touch on the continuously surprising emotional side of the script. The nice thing about this set of films is that each actor involved is given a vastly different role from one film to the next. Pegg as transitioned from unambitious burn-out to rule-obsessed super-cop to trenchcoat-sporting ex rabble-rouser, while Frost has transitioned from foul-mouthed deadbeat to an bright-eyed goofball to suit-wearing voice of reason. With each new set of characters comes a new frame the writing is able to create for the actors to fill, and the frame given here is arguably the most complex and the most mature of all three films. This depth is hinted at several times in the second act before it explodes onto the screen in the third with a very emotional confrontation between Pegg and Frost that made the hair on my arm stand up ever so slightly.
The Acting: 10/10
Of course, without a talented cast, even the best screenplay can be fore naught as well. Luckily, The Worlds End has the benefit of its star and director sharing the writings credits (an arrangement that tends to avoid a lot of the conflicting vision issues that face most film’s with different writers and directors), and as such the cast is backed up by a script that allows all of them plenty of opportunities to use their occasionally surprising comedic gifts. I’d like to give a special shout-out to Eddie Marsden who, despite not being a known comedic actor, stole a lot of scenes with his futile attempts at maintaining composure in the face of imminent inebriation. Tack on some amusing banter from Martin Freeman and Paddy Considine and an amazing late-game cameo by a certain series regular (who’s name I’ll leave you to find out) and the supporting cast easily hold up their end of the deal.
As for Pegg and Frost, their chemistry doesn’t drive the film quite like it did in Shaun or Fuzz but when it does shift to center stage their chemistry feels just as solid as ever. I’ve already mentioned the turn for the heartfelt the two’s relationship takes near the end of the film, but I’d like to re-emphasize just how effective that set of scenes was for me. Nothing will beat the pair’s buddy-cop routine in Fuzz but the shared vulnerability we see developing between the two feels as real as you’d expect from any well-made drama. I sincerely hope that we don’t stop seeing these two together on camera, though I’d like to think the two’s real life friendship would suggest that will not be the case.
The Comedy: 8/10
One of the most beautiful things about Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz was how much replay value each had. So many little easter eggs and subtle bits of comedy are peppered into nearly every scene, and every time you catch a new one of those things it’s like discovering a five dollar bill in a jacket you haven’t warn in years. With this knowledge, I am fully aware that a lot of the humor in this film went over my head the first time around, and I look forward to returning once it’s been officially released to find what I’d missed. From a first time viewing I can say that the movie really is hilarious on a lot of different levels, even if those levels have to wait for a somewhat lengthy exposition to pave the way forward before they can really shine. Think if you were to take a bit of The Hangover, a bit of Shaun of the Dead, and a bit of Abbot and Costello’s “Who’s on first” shtick, sprinkle on a heavy dusting of dry, quirky British wit and there you have it. If I would leave you all with anything regarding the movie’s comedic side, it’s that The World’s End may not have anything quite as individually amazing as the “Don’t Stop Me Now” scene in Shaun or the final shootout in Fuzz but as the sum of it’s parts, it’s still on par with the laugh quotients of those two films.
The Verdict: 9.0/10 – Incredible
+ Amazing premise that mixes the perfect level of weirdness to keep things interesting
+ Pegg/Frost prove their acting adaptability & deliver some surprising heart near the end
+ The laughs are less concentrated but just as intelligently entertaining as ever
– The circumstances around my viewing of the film may have made me overlook the occasional flaw here or there. We should all have take-home Simon Peggs to watch these movies with us and make us all feel like we have interesting friends.
Rotten Tomatoes: 90 %
The Code is Zeek: 4.5/5
Dan the Man Movie Reviews: 8.5/10
My Reel POV: 7.5/10
Terry Malloy’s Pigeon Coop: 3.5/5
Tim’s Film Reviews: 65%
Average: 7.9/10 – Pretty Damn Great