Saturday, August 24, 2013

Movie Review: The World's End

I went to see The World's End this afternoon, a movie by Edgar Wright starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.

Gary King was the leader of a group of youths in the early 90's, where they attempted to do the "Golden Mile," a pub crawl of 12 bars that started with a place The First Post and ended with The World's End. That attempt failed, and all five friends slowly moved on with their lives.

Except for Gary, that is. He's a manchild who never grew up and continues to drink to excess and is a drug addict, has very little interest in education, and has no problem being a jerk to his friends. His friends have all become reasonably successful: Peter is a car salesman, Oliver (played by Martin Freeman, from Sherlock and The Office) plays a real estate agent; and Steven and Andy (played by Nick Frost) are shown to be successful in their careers as well. Gary convinces them that they have to do the pub crawl they never finished almost 25 years ago, despite the fact that they are all middle-aged professionals and not the reckless youths they used to be. He does so by lying by claiming that Andy agreed to go along (even though they haven't spoken for years), and then he gets Andy last by paying off an old debt and telling him that Gary's mother has died.

Once the five friends start on the pub crawl--in what appears to be a gentrified version of their old hometown--things start going weird. Sadly, talking too much more about the plot will give away too much, so we'll more or less just leave it at that.

This is the third of the Three Flavours Cornetto Triolgy (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World's End), all of which are directed by Edgar Wright and written by Wright and Pegg and star Pegg and Nick Frost. (Pegg and Frost also starred together in the TV series Spaces and in the alien movie Paul.) There's also a large ensemble cast that appear in some of the movies, such as Martin Freeman and Bill Nighy.

Unfortunately, I don't want to give away too much, so my review will have to be a little slight in detail. It is a science fiction film, so you do have to be a fan, but quite frankly even if you're not there's plenty to like. All of the cast members have great chemistry together; the movie does a fairly decent job of providing enough detail pretty quickly so you know who is who in the group. The plot is reasonably tight, at least as these types of things go, and you won't be bored for very long. The stretch of time between when they start the bar crawl and shit starts to go down seems a bit too long, but in retrospect there's a lot of foreshadowing that gets crammed in during that time. It's forgivable in hindsight but it possibly could have been a little more succinct.

A special point should be made of the writing: this is, in its essence, an action flick, but the writing is very well done. While there's perhaps a few too many conversations setting up emotional payoffs we don't really need, there's a lot of solid humor and a lot of great action all mixed in with a reasonably impressive science fiction plot. The entire movie moves along at a decent pace, and you're almost always in a constant state of being entertained.

If you've been a fan of any of their previous movies, you know what to expect. It is interesting to see how Pegg and Frost have effectively switched roles: Pegg is the slacker manchild while Frost is the no-nonsense voice of reason. However, you'll quickly see a pattern emerge--all three movies end up with a ragtag group of people trying to stop a large force that is attacking them. It's a good formula, but it is a formula. One gets the suspicion that if they continue to make these movies they're going to have to start coming up with something new. They've been inventive and original so far, but it's just starting to wear a little thin.

The only downsides to this movie? The only thing is the ending--and quite frankly I don't know why. It's a solid ending that makes sense, but there was just something off about it. It was perhaps not quite enough resolution for the length of the movie itself, but that's not really true--there is a resolution. So I can't quite put my finger on it.

Bottom line: It's a great movie, and probably the best I've seen this year. If you don't like science fiction, you'll probably still like it.

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