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Danger on the edge of town
on 24 July 2013
Five pre-middle-aged male friends are drawn to Newton Haven, the site of their failed dozen-pub crawl as students in 1990. They're led by Gary King (Simon Pegg). He's the one who couldn't move on from that night; couldn't get a job like them, or get married like them. Reluctant revelry and bad-tempered banter ensues, before the gang discovers that the residents of the town have changed. That is, they have BEEN changed...
The World's End is considerably better than the ostensibly similar This Is The End, a super-indulgent American comedy which mistook f-bombs for humour and name-dropping for satire. Edgar Wright's film is indulgent also, but at the service of audience enjoyment, as opposed to the enjoyment of the players. The script is surprisingly dense and intricate, many of its jokes arriving bittersweet. In an era when so many comedies are heavily (and lazily) improvised, it's refreshing to watch a tightly woven story unfold for once.
The action scenes are given equal attention, lovingly choreographed like some kind of slapstick dance. Chief pugilist is Andrew, our sort-of-hero, played by Nick Frost with remarkable agility. This instalment is far less bloodthirsty than its predecessors - more Scott Pilgrim than Shaun.
The rest of the group is made up of Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan, and Martin Freeman. The performances are all top-drawer, although it takes time for their individual personalities to emerge. But then, the fact that they are now practically indistinguishable may be the point - for all their disapproval of Gary, they are the ones playing it safe.
What's most impressive about The World's End is the fact that it's actually about something. Nostalgia is easy to indulge but difficult to deconstruct, but this film genuinely aspires to explore the idea of selective memory - as with a bad hangover, our memories tends to return in subjective spasms, and the truth is only accessible by gathering multiple witnesses. And the truth isn't always what it cracked up to be.
The World's End is, for me, the best of the "Cornetto Trilogy". Highly recommended.