Monday, August 26, 2013

The World's End

The World's End (2013)
Dir. Edgar Wright

5 out of 5

Nobody maximizes the value of a single movie ticket quite like Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg, the madcap masterminds behind The World's End, their latest exercise in witty genre deconstruction after the rom-zom-com Shaun of the Dead and the buddy cop parody Hot Fuzz.  Yet in this, the duo's richest and most mature collaboration yet, categorization is almost impossible.  Starting off as a "lad's holiday" comedy about a group of friends attempting to relive one of the wildest nights of their youth that morphs into a sci-fi invasion thriller, The World's End winds up as an unlikely delivery system for messages about conformity, broken friendships, and the resilience of the human spirit. 

The film's lynchpin is Gary King (Pegg), a peacocking rascal still clinging to the hard-partying lifestyle he enjoyed as a teenager.  Despite his reputation as a mooch, a liar, and a generally selfish bastard, he smooth-talks four of his old high school buddies - meek Peter (Eddie Marsan), sharkish Oliver (Martin Freeman), earnest Steven (Paddy Considine), and chief skeptic Andy (Nick Frost) - into taking a second crack at completing a legendary pub crawl in their sleepy hometown.  However, as the night unfolds, the men uncover a sinister secret about their unremarkable village - an extraterrestrial plan to replace the residents with genetically identical automatons and lull the rest of humankind into docile obedience.  

To say more would spoil the pleasure of absorbing the movie's carefully crafted setups and marveling at their elegant, uproarious, and totally unexpected resolutions.  Wright is a magician in the truest sense of the word, a master of misdirection who nonetheless hides plot clues in plain sight to reward attentive viewers.  Like his other films, The World's End embodies a style of "total filmmaking" that uses every weapon in a director's arsenal - visual design, soundtrack cues, editing, dialogue - to ensure that no moment is without meaning.  And swapping the typical Pegg-Frost character dynamic is an excellent choice in a movie that doubles as a cautionary tale about living in the past, as Gary and Andy struggle to salvage a relationship that has destroyed them and defined them.

The World's End is an appropriately nostalgic "conclusion" to Wright and Pegg's Three Flavours Cornetto faux-trilogy.  It's also the crowning achievement that establishes Wright as the most important popular filmmaker of his generation.  Combining a penchant for impossibly layered storytelling and geeky predilections with the same indefatigable sense of wonder, go-for-broke technical chops, and obsession with suburban alienation found in Steven Spielberg's earlier work, Wright's features have progressively raised their emotional intelligence while never losing their pure entertainment value.  The World's End may be his farewell to youth, but hopefully the best is still yet to come.

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