The World's End

The World's End

***

Reviewed by: Michael Pattison

There’s been many a public house named The World’s End. One such establishment features early on in Patrick Keiller’s Robinson In Space (1997), the midpoint of a trilogy of essay films, which began with London (1994), whose opening line announces “a journey to the end of the world”, and which culminated with Robinson In Ruins (2010), which framed the 2008 financial collapse with the possibility that something resembling the apocalypse might finally be conceivable. As a turn of phrase, of course, the world’s end refers not only to time but also to space. The pub sign viewed in Keiller’s film features an explorer’s ship heading towards a kind of olde-worldy waterfall – that is, the outer perimeter of a flat earth.

Today, the world’s end is indeed upon us only in temporal terms. In recent weeks, Stringer Bell has cancelled the apocalypse in Pacific Rim, Brad Pitt has negotiated a plague-like global zombie infestation in World War Z, and Hollywood’s frat pack has had to seek belated redemption after an unwelcome uprising from Satan in This Is The End. School’s out for summer, and in cinemas, kids have the choice of one horrible image of their future after another. Enter The World’s End, then, the final instalment in the so-called Blood and Ice Cream trilogy directed by Dorset-born Edgar Wright and starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Following zom-com Shaun Of The Dead (2004) and buddy policier Hot Fuzz (2007), the trio’s latest outing – co-written by Wright and Pegg – treads a similarly difficult line of reappropriating established genre elements for comic effect while also being a sincere contribution to the genre at hand.

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In this instance, the film’s title denotes the ne’er-reached endpoint of a 12-bar pub-crawl in fictional town Newton Haven while connoting, yes, the apocalypse. In a world in which adolescent promise is sobered by the cruel disappointments of adulthood, how else is one to fuel and welcome oblivion but through alcohol? Fates are found and destinies determined at the bottom of a pint. For some it’s laughter, for others doom – but pubs are social places and therefore have as much to do with the possibilities of togetherness and solidarity as they do with delusions, disillusions and anger, resentment and angst.

Pegg plays Gary King, an alcoholic clutching in any way he can onto the simpler pleasures of a responsibility-free childhood, who recruits four pals for one last go at Newton Haven’s Golden Mile pub crawl – filmed in Welwyn and Letchworth, in Hertfordshire. They are car salesman Peter (Eddie Marsan), property developer Oliver (Martin Freeman), construction worker Steven (Paddy Considine) and Gary’s old best mate Andy (Frost), who has been teetotal since a drink-driving accident in which they were both involved.

It doesn’t seem to matter that it’s a stretch of plausibility that these four ever take Gary up on his mad caper. Lured in by the false news that his mother has recently died, they reluctantly join him on the road trip and soon find themselves with little to talk about or to catch up on. Gary is a conceited, obnoxious embarrassment. Just as he’s beginning to realise how much of a drag the night’s going to be, however, he enters the gents and ends up getting into a fight with a younger lad who turns out to be a robot with detachable limbs and ink for blood. After a Warriors-style group brawl, Gary and co. come to the realisation that the residents of their old town have been replaced with human-like robots, and figure the best way to get through the night is to blend in and to complete their humble mission of making it to the eponymous pub.

The drunker they get, the better the protagonists fight. Along the way, Gary and Steven try to resume romantic designs on Oliver’s sister Sam (Rosamund Pike), Peter confronts an old bully, Andy begins to drink again – no room for a party pooper in this comedy – and Gary and Andy rediscover the fruits of friendship, though their inevitable hangover comes in the form of a post-apocalyptic wrap-up montage that suggests life takes its own course and that it’d be a doomed endeavour to impose rules and regulations upon it.

While there are plenty of laughs, the film might be victim of a too-linear, too-literal and too-revealing trailer, and the impact of its funnier moments are dampened by familiarity. At other points, the rapid-fire innovation of Hot Fuzz seems missing, and the directorial repetition of Wright’s mild misfire, [film]Scott Pilgrim Vs The World[/film[ (2010), begins to seep in.

Interestingly, like the film’s director – on his first outing since Scott Pilgrim – four of its central quintet are also returning from dalliances with bigger things. Pegg is now a comfortable addition to franchises such as Mission: Impossible and Star Trek, and co-wrote and appeared with Frost in sci-fi caper Paul in 2011. Considine, meanwhile, returns from the comparative wilderness of secondary roles in bigger-budgeted swamps for his meatiest big-screen part in years, and Freeman appears between the first and second Hobbit films.

In an effectively lower-key comedy tribute to much-loved predecessors, though, it’s fitting that the performer who hits his own notes best here is Eddie Marsan, playing against type as a partner and inheritor of a comfortably drab family business. Emerging from a cubicle after the group’s first toilet-room battle with a bunch of robotic upstarts, Marsan spells out with petrified sincerity what Freeman’s Oliver has annoyingly abbreviated several times already as “double-you tee eff”. It’s one of the few laugh-out-loud moments here not included verbatim in the trailer.

Reviewed on: 23 Jul 2013
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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.
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Director: Edgar Wright

Writer: Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright

Starring: Rosamund Pike, Simon Pegg, Martin Freeman, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan, David Bradley, Paddy Considine, Mark Heap, Julian Seager, Thomas Law, Feyi Babalola, John Duggan, Zachary Bailess, Gabriel Constantin, Luke Scott

Year: 2013

Runtime: 109 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK

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