Nine years after the release of Shaun Of The Dead, and five years after Hot Fuzz, The Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy draws to a sufficient, if unexceptional, close with The World’s End. Reuniting director Edgar Wright with stars Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, The World’s End is an amusing, heartwarming and nostalgia-filled comedy adventure that works well at the time, but leaves little to chew on once the end credits have rolled.
Twenty years after failing to complete the “Golden Mile”, an infamous pub crawl across their hometown of Newton Haven, adolescent former drug-addict Gary (Pegg) convinces old friends Andrew (Frost), Oliver (Martin Freeman), Peter (Eddie Marsan) and Steven (Paddy Considine) to join him for a second attempt. Gary’s plan to relive the best night of his life turns sour, however, when the quintet become embroiled in an extra-terrestrial takeover and are forced to fight for their freedom.
Opening with a sunlit flashback that takes us down memory lane to the summer of 1990 when the quintet were inseparable and their lives seemed so full of potential, The World’s End then hurtles back to the present as Gary reunites with his former friends to return to Newton Haven in a bid to finish what they started all those years ago. Unsurprisingly, old wounds are soon opened, and it becomes clear that the “Golden Mile” is more to Gary than a mere pub crawl.
These emotional scars unspool over the course of the film and are handled with care by screenwriters Wright and Pegg, who have developed into a writing force to be reckoned with. The narrative takes a turn for the sci-fi as the film enters its second act, but the main themes of friendship, yearning for the past and a defiance against the future remain front and centre, enabling the film to maintain its heart, in spite of the increasing peril and swift change in tone.
It’s the sharp humour, too, and spot-on performances that save The World’s End from the failings of its often plain plot. Gary may be unlikable, but Pegg plays the part with unrelenting determination that makes it impossible not to get caught up in his fight. Frost, Freeman, Marsan and Considine are all terrific in their respective roles, and Rosamund Pike makes a notable impression as Oliver’s sister Sam, delivering her one-liners with fiery confidence and wit.
The World’s End may not be as lasting and memorable as Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t fun to be had in this sentimental comedy come sci-fi adventurer. Its infrequency is dispiriting, and there’s less zing than expected, yet its compassion for its characters and nods to the Cornetto trilogy past ensure it’s a decent and amusing watch. And, at the end of the day, that’s all we can ask for.