So as the time ticked down towards The World’s End – the final instalment in Pegg and director Edgar Wright’s Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy – expectations were high.
The film begins with a voiceover from Pegg as the selfish, stuck-in-the-past Gary King, who tells the story of the Golden Mile pub-crawl, and the night he and his friends almost made it.
When it is revealed to whom King is recounting the tale, the audience is given an early indication that this is a film with darker undertones than its predecessors; an expansion of the long-term effects of the banality conveyed so well in Shaun of the Dead. Meanwhile, the town to which King and his friends return to finish what they started years earlier hides even darker secrets than Hot Fuzz’s Sandford.
To reveal too much of the plot would be to spoil the fun. But between the film’s sombre prologue and surprising, but admirable, epilogue is an entertaining movie full of in-jokes and great performances.
As King’s former schoolmates, Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan and Nick Frost all excel, with special praise reserved for Marsan’s comedic value and Considine’s slowly unveiled efforts at rekindling lost love. That we get to know these men so well, that none of them are cyphers, is even more important come the big reveal.
While not as funny or as refreshing as Shaun of the Dead, as a full-stop on Pegg and Wright’s passion project, it is just about perfect.
This is an ending very much on their terms. And while much of the fun is in watching how the story develops, it is not giving anything away to say the action, jokes and confidence in execution made this one of the best cinematic experiences in many a month.
Praise should also go to the soundtrack, which perfectly sets the tone for these men retracing the footsteps of their youth. While the concept of a past not forgotten so much as rendered obsolete proves telling come the film’s conclusion.
The World’s End is at times a slower, more thoughtful film than its creators’ previous efforts. It is also a more mature and ultimately rewarding experience that comments on the importance of identity, the many forms by which that identity can be lost, and the sheer bloody-mindedness of humankind.