Alienation seems to be the prevailing theme throughout director Edgar Wright’s Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy. After the everyman saviour of the world in Shaun of the Dead (2004) (the “Strawberry” Cornetto) and the exceptional cop thrown into a village of corruption represented in Hot Fuzz (2007) (the “Original” blue), Wright and co-writer Simon Pegg tackle the same dynamic once again in The World’s End.
The “Mint” entry of the trilogy addresses the scenario of unusual home-comings, where what was once familiar, seems strange upon your return. But what if it wasn’t just your imagination? In a terrifically shot and edited opening we are introduced to a teenage Gary King and the childhood best mates who form his royal court (check the surnames). The adult Gary (Pegg) is recalling the night in 1990 when the friends attempted their hometown Newton Haven’s “Golden Mile” – a pub crawl which takes in twelve fine ale-houses from “The First Post” through to “The World’s End”. That night was unsuccessful as the boys did not reach the end. Spurred on by this failure, Gary, who is obviously still stuck in his teens, strives to “get the band back together” (yes, they had a band), tracking down the now successful men who were once his followers. However, Peter Page (Eddie Marsan), Oliver Chamberlain (Martin Freeman), Steven Prince (Paddy Considine), and Andy Knightly (Nick Frost), now successful in their own right, are reluctant to return with Gary.
Eventually guilt-tripped into going home to re-attempt the “Golden Mile”, “the five musketeers” set off on the crawl. It soon becomes apparent that things in Newton Haven are odd and by the time they reach pub four the guys discover the truth: robots (or “blanks”) have replaced nearly everyone, with the exception of Oliver’s sister Sam (Rosamund Pike). It’s a bad situation, but with no better plan, they all follow Gary who this time is determined to make it to “The World’s End”. Childhood acquaintances interrupt the boys’ progress along the crawl. Whilst the action escalates towards an absolutely relentless final act, full of twists, emotion and action, where the audience are left to wonder who the “blanks” are, and what selfish thing Gary will do next?
In terms of the trilogy, it’s an unusual role for Pegg, Gary is self-centred and would gladly sacrifice everyone as long as he completed the “Mile”. You never quite warm to him, so for the audience it becomes a film all about the other characters. Frost gives the performance of the trilogy as Andy, getting most of the best lines, alongside Pegg and Pike, and some of the best action. Considine is also loveable as Steven; you can’t wait for him to pop back on screen, because he always has a snappy retort handy to put Gary in his place.
As always with Wright and Pegg, the real-gem is the script. There is no filler material or wasted dialogue, only a crisp story with plenty of humour and lots of action. The fight sequences, choreographed using “pub-fu”, are frenetic, fun and breathless, with the undoubted highlight being Andy’s “Hulk” moment and the ultimate bar-room brawl in The Beehive (pub nine). Just like the other two films in the trilogy there is a fence based joke, many familiar faces, and the presence of the much-loved ice cream. But unlike the other films, the Cornetto does not come from “the shop”, its inclusion is much more subtly (and brilliantly) done.
The World’s End is a lovely climax to the “Cornetto” trilogy, with plenty of things for both trilogy fans and the casual viewer to love. Think of the film as the perfect companion to Shaun of the Dead and just sit back and enjoy “Barmaggedon” whilst you’re served “total annihilation”.