As the old expression goes: No great drinking story ever began with, “So I was drinking a non-alcoholic beverage”. So with the latest Wright/Pegg/Frost offering, The World’s End, taking that to a 12 pint extreme, we should be in for one heck of a hell-raising adventure. And for the most part of this wild apocalyptic action comedy, we are.
The third of the supposed ‘Cornetto trilogy’ after Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, finds us in familiar territory. A sleepy British countryside sort of town with a pub at the end of each road and a seemingly invisible evil lurking beneath the surface, this has the more mature tone of a trilogy being sewn up without forgetting the glorious kick-ass action.
It begins with Gary King (Simon Pegg), troubled and unhappy with life, but who lights up when remembering the manic days of being in Newhaven and doing pub crawls with his best mates. Still sad about the fact that they never completed the ‘golden mile’ of a pint in each of the dozen pubs, King vows to do something about it. He rounds up his old friends, the reluctant bunch of Peter (Eddie Marsan), Oliver “O-Man” (Martin Freeman) and Steven (Paddy Considine). Andrew (Nick Frost) is far trickier and Gary is forced to use emotional blackmail to lure him in.
Despite Gary’s manic enthusiasm and anecdotal memories, troubles are bubbling under and threaten to rise to the surface. Gary has clearly never really left his hedonistic lifestyle, still driving his battered second hand car and failed to move on, much to the discomfort of the group who have all become responsible adults with serious jobs. Due to an incident from those crazy student days, and much to Gary’s disgust, Andrew has become teetotal. A few pubs into the alcoholic quest, and just as all the resentment threatens to spill over, Gary drunkenly discovers the town is hiding a disturbing yucky inner secret. And so the first of many energetic bar room brawls as the five vastly outnumbered guys must destroy the very peculiar enemy that has already taken over the town.
More mature, more energetic and definitely more heartfelt than the previous two films, this is a real tour de force. Taking the bonding friendships elements that the trilogy is famous for and taking it in a more personal direction, The World’s End is a gloriously fun and thought-provoking film. Sure, the romantic angle between Steven and O-Man’s sister Sam (Rosamund Pike) is as convincing as a cornetto with salami, some of the jokes are pretty tedious and it does get a bit daft towards the end, but these are minor points. The pace is smooth and structured, the tone is fun mixed with poignant and the action scenes are a delight. Another Wright/Pegg/Frost collaboration in the future? I’ll drink to that.