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Edgar Wright’s “The World’s End” is a Triumphant Mix of Genres

August 26, 2013

By John Corrado

The World's End PosterThe statement that “Edgar Wright is brilliant” would be enough to sum up my feelings on The World’s End, the director’s latest and unofficial closer to his excellent Cornetto trilogy that started with Shaun of the Dead in 2004 and Hot Fuzz in 2007.  The film opened in fourth place at the box office, with $8.9 million.

This is a smash of different genres that starts as a hilarious buddy comedy about getting the old gang back together, before morphing into an exhilarating sci-fi thriller and then revealing something even deeper beneath the surface.  It’s also a summer movie that comes right at the end of the season and easily ranks among the best of the year.

Gary King (Simon Pegg) is still stuck at seventeen, determined to finish the epic pub crawl that himself and four friends started but couldn’t finish over twenty years ago at the end of high school.  But everyone else has moved on from that night, with few regrets that they never made it to the final pub.  Oliver Chamberlain (Martin Freeman) is now a completely square real estate agent with a bluetooth headset constantly on his ear, and Peter Page (Eddie Marsan) is a family man still hurting from the bullying he used to endure.  Steven Prince (Paddy Considine) is living out his midlife crisis through a much younger personal trainer, still competing with Gary for the affection of Oliver’s beautiful sister, Sam (Rosamund Pike).

Even his best mate Andy Knightley (Nick Frost) has moved on and become the complete opposite of Gary King, spending his adult life completely sober and with an office job.  After some persuasion, the whole gang is back on the road to take another trip down the Golden Mile, a stretch of twelve uniquely named but now surprisingly similar pubs that culminate with The World’s End.  But things take an unexpected turn about forty minutes into the film when they are attacked by “robots” in the bathroom, leading them to uncover a mystery that suggests perhaps they haven’t changed as much as the town.

This is a film that literally shows the dangers of being stuck in the past, while also questioning the ideas of social conformity.  Gary King is still stuck in the mindset of a high schooler and is struggling because he can’t seem to repeat the glory days of his youth, but we get the sense that he would also be unhappy if he embraced the typical trappings of an adult life.  I think the film is trying to say that we need to move forward from the past or else we end up stuck in between, but it can be equally dangerous to drastically change ourselves in the process.  The fact that The World’s End is able to deliver both messages feels just as effective as the mix of genres.

Simon Pegg is excellent as a man stuck in the past, hiding his apparent depression beneath the same black trench coat and Sisters of Mercy t-shirt that he wore back in high school.  His perfect deliverance of the sharply written dialogue provides many big laughs, but he also excels during the quieter dramatic beats of the story, revealing the pain beneath the party boy image that he still projects.  As always, Nick Frost plays well alongside Simon Pegg and delivers a solid supporting role, really rocking it during the fight scenes as he puts a couple of bar stools to memorable use.

Like with his last three films, including the Toronto-based comic book adaptation Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Edgar Wright delivers an incredibly unique visual style with The World’s End that is unlike pretty much anything I have ever seen.  His images pop with a vibrancy that provides a sense of importance to even the smallest little details, all matched by characters that are drawn with quite a bit of depth beneath the surface.  The smooth choreography of the fight scenes is impressive, as limbs are torn off and blue “blood” splatters the walls.  This is the work of a director who is completely in tune with what he is trying to convey, and there isn’t a single frame or line of dialogue that feels out of place with his vision.

This is a comedy about friends getting back together after many years, an action film with a threat that comes from the skies and a heartfelt drama about the dangerous nature of living in the past, all wrapped up into one gloriously entertaining package.  All of these different genres work beautifully together in the film, because Edgar Wright is a brilliant director and The World’s End is his latest triumph.

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