I don’t want to say too much about The World’s End, the movie opening this weekend starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost and directed by Edgar Wright, other than that it’s worth seeing. I went to see it last night knowing very little about it, and that made the experience much more fun and surprising. Usually, by the time I see a film, I’ve already heard about all the major events. The lesson here: if you know you want to see something, don’t watch trailers!
Pegg plays Gary King, whose life high point came when he graduated from school. While his four friends went on to good (if boring) jobs, marriages, and lives, Gary wants to relive the glory days of the graduation pub crawl, their failed attempt to drink at 12 different bars in one night. In addition to Frost, the buddies are Oliver the salesman (Martin Freeman, Sherlock, The Hobbit), Peter the put-upon (Eddie Marsan, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows), and Steven (Paddy Considine, The Bourne Ultimatum), who’s always been in Gary’s shadow. Rosamund Pike (Surrogates) is the sole three-dimensional female character, but although this is a boys’ club, the concerns are universal.
Gary doesn’t realize that he’s no longer important to them, nor how much of a jerk he can be in his self-centeredness. The film is really about how hard it can be to grow up, and whether settling down means settling. This was a message I was already thinking about, since I went to the 9:30 show (late for me) surrounded by a bunch of college students.
Like the other films in the “Cornetto / Blood and Ice Cream” trilogy (although each movie stands alone, so no worries if you haven’t seen the others), there’s plenty of action and comedy layered onto the core genre. (Shaun of the Dead was horror, with its zombie invasion, while Hot Fuzz was a cop buddy thriller.) The World’s End is labeled science fiction, but if you’re really looking for a strong SF concept, you might want Paul instead. It stars Pegg and Frost, although Wright didn’t direct, and it tackles the “what if” necessary for science fiction more strongly.
Where The World’s End shines is its character work. I really cared about these guys and felt for Gary, in particular, struggling to cope with no longer being a big dog in a small village pond. I’m already anticipating the DVD release, where I hope a commentary will point out all the references and allusions that I will likely only discover on multiple viewings.