After a hiatus of over two years, I decided to go to the movies last Saturday. While I both adore watching and going to the movies, for some reason over the past twenty-four months, I was plagued with apathy when it came to the silver screen. The last film I saw in the theatre was X-Men: First Class, and while there have been plenty of films that have come out in the past two years that I’ve been more than a little interested in, I simply wasn’t able to kick myself in the ass and get to them. Well, apathy be damned – last Saturday I went to see the amazing The World’s End.
Andy recently gave this a good, though not rave, review on Biff Bam Pop, and I was a little surprised about how lacklustre he found the film. Of the three films in the self-styled Cornetto Trilogy (coined by writer-director Edgar Wright and stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost – they comprise Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End), I’m starting to think that The World’s End is my favourite of the three. Given my love for Shaun of the Dead, I do not say this lightly.
In brief, the film is about a group of five friends who decide to revist a pub crawl to twelve pubs called The Golden Mile they failed to finish at the end of their final year of high school in the small and unassuming town of Newton Haven somewhere in what must be the midlands of pastoral England. Wright, having grown up in rural east Anglia, is a fan of small-town England and its twee levels of idealism and hypocrisy. He also finds them incredibly funny (just look at the supporting characters and antagonists in Hot Fuzz).
As always with Cornetto films, something genre-related occurs and something goes horribly wrong. In the case of Shaun of the Dead, it was zombies; in the case of Hot Fuzz, a cabal of evil, gun-toting masterminds; and in the case of The World’s End, well, something that’s out of this world.
Roles are reversed in this film, where Pegg plays Gary King, the aging goth alcoholic who refuses to grow up and who has effectively pissed his life away (literally and figuratively), and Frost is the straight man – well, to a point (the shirt-tearing scene is one of the funniest in the film). Normally Frost plays the bumbling fool – stoner Ed in Shaun of the Dead and naive constable Danny Butterman in Hot Fuzz – but here he plays the straight-laced, reformed, and successful Andy Knightley. King convinces his earlier high-school friends to join him, but Knightley takes a great deal more convincing – even if it is all based on gross untruths. King and Knightley are joined by their friends Oliver Chamberlain (played by Martin Freeman), Steven Prince (played by Paddy Considine), and Peter Page (played by Eddie Marsan) and head off on The Golden Mile: 12 pubs, 12 pints. It all goes horribly wrong, as expected, and the jokes simply do not stop.
What I love so much about the Cornetto films is the balancing act they all seem to make between hilarious comedy (I have guffawed to the point of losing my breath in these films – The World’s End the most among them), genre tropes, and poignant moments of humanity and social commentary (often portrayed by Pegg, and The World’s End is no exception, but there are two scenes involving Eddie Marsan in The World’s End that quite seriously brought a tear to my eye and probably will to anyone who has been bullied). The World’s End was touted as social science-fiction in the tradition of John Wyndham, and I can’t say I disagree. Between the uproarious laughs, the paean to the 1990s, and general boozing comedy, is a film that very much toes the line between biting social satirical commentary and just a good science-fiction romp. Parts of the film reminded me a great deal of the fantastic Attack the Block, along with the aforementioned Wyndham novels The Chrysalids, The Midwich Cuckoos, and The Day of the Triffids.
And, as a quick afterthought, there’s the music – I haven’t loved the music in a film as much as I did in The World’s End since Trainspotting (well, perhaps Layer Cake), but in Trainspotting‘s case, that film’s music was totally contemporary. In The World’s End, it’s an amazing, and in three scenes, gut-wrenchingly hilarious, trip down memory lane for anyone who was in their teens or twenties in the 1990s. I spent the entire film with a huge, shit-eating grin on my face. Any film that makes Primal Scream and The Sisters of Mercy main plot points is not only amazing in my books, but it’s obvious they have a bloody good sense of humour.
But maybe I’m just weird.