Sometimes movies give you things you don’t expect. Sometimes those surprises really suck, like when you go to Superman Returns and getting a movie that’s more boring than a Russian art film. But sometimes those surprises are really great, like Drive being a really cool character piece rather than a brainless action flick.
I went into The World’s End, the latest Edgar Wright/Simon Pegg/Nick Frost offering, expecting to laugh a lot. But I wasn’t expecting to take a kick to the emotional nutsack. And it’s that unexpected emotional punch that makes The World’s End the best movie I’ve seen so far this year.
The World’s End unspools, for the most part, over a single single night. Gary King (Pegg) talks his posse from high school into returning to their hometown to complete an epic 12-pub crawl they couldn’t get through back in the old days. Unfortunately, Gary’s buddies Pete (Eddie Marsan), Steve (Paddy Considine), Oliver (Martin Freeman), and Andy (Nick Frost), as well as Steve’s sister Sam (Rosamund Pike), find that the little town they came from has changed since left, and not for the better. Before they know it, there up to their armpits in odd townfolk with a terrible secret. The only way out is to finish what they started which leads to all sorts of fist-fights and mayhem, not to mention, a confrontation with what it means to be human.
The casting in this movie is inspired. Pegg and Frost are always great, and work absolutely awesomely together, but here Pegg plays the fool role and Frost plays the straight man. And this is Pegg’s movie, but there’s a point where a switch in Frost’s head that gets flipped, and from then on, Frost steals every scene he’s in. And he kicks ass in the action scenes, like a Tasmanian Devil in horn-rimmed glasses. Pegg is fantastic, but this is by far the best performance of Frost’s career.
The rest of the cast is up to the task as well. Martin Freeman is never better than when he gets creepily agreeable about mid-way through the flick. Paddy Considine and Eddie Marsan add plenty of laughs and even a little heart in Considine’s case. Pierce Brosnan pops up for a pretty funny role. The extras are appropriately cold and unhuman. Everybody does what they’re cast to do with aplomb.
The action scenes are hilarious. Nick Frost is especially fun to watch as he thrashes everything and everyone in sight. It’s a pretty good laughs to see “people” beaten with their own limbs. Wright knows how to stage action for maximum humorous effect. The special effects are gooey, outrageous, and awesome. The way Wright and his filmmaking crew have visualized the “blanks”, as their called, is pretty damn imaginative. Wright seems to be one of few directors working right now who’s zigging while all the other guys are zagging.
Another of the joys of The World’s End is the writing. The dialogue is witty, rapid-fire stuff, full of humorous wordplay. While the film has plenty of awesome visuals, the writing really puts it over the top. The story builds to a point where you think you know where it’s gonna go, then goes an entirely different direction. The climax doesn’t play out in a huge shoot out, which is pretty cool and unexpected. I loved it.
Thing thing that really made this movie for me is the unexpected emotional punch it gave me. There was a point where I was watching Gary struggle and I actually teared up. The World’s End ends up being about how hard it is dealing with change and how hard it is when you can’t grow up. It also extols the importance of thinking for yourself and having friends. I could really identify with what Gary goes through, and if a movie can get me to relate to it, it has me in the palm of its hand.
The short of it is that I loved The World’s End. It made me laugh, kicked my ass, had me cheering, and even had me a bit misty-eyed. It’s a gooey, hard-drinking good time. It’s hard for me to say this, but I’d put this movie ahead of Pacific Rim. You know how much I loved Pacific Rim, right? That must mean The World’s End is an absolutely spectacular movie. And it is exactly that.