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November 19, 2013

On DVD/Blu-ray – Review: The World’s End (2013)

by NIR SHALEV

The World's End (2013)

The story begins 20 years back in the quaint British town of Newton Haven, where a group of five teenagers attempt to complete The Golden Mile: a pub crawl that encompasses 12 pubs. They fail to reach the last three pubs but will never forget the adventure they had that day. We fast forward to the present and follow that old group’s leader Gary King (Simon Pegg), now almost middle-aged and an alcoholic. Gary plans to meet up with the old crew and convince them to try again for The Golden Mile, this time actually completing it.

Aside from Gary the crew is made up of Andy Knightly (Nick Frost), Oliver Chamberlain (Martin Freeman), Steven Prince (Paddy Considine), and Peter Page (Eddie Marsan). They all grew up and have flourishing careers and some are even married with children. But Gary gears up for the reunion by wearing the exact same “outfit” that he’d worn 20 years back, kind of like a uniform; he still drives the same old car and even has the same cassette tape in the car’s tape player. The others take notice that nothing about Gary had changed and frown.

The Word’s End boasts several themes. The first focuses on the fact that sometimes we like to remain trapped in the past. I am of course, referring entirely to the character of Gary King. Gary’s mind is trapped in the past because there he was the boss, the main man. He was the leader of the group and they all followed him everywhere, like King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. Currently he’s in a bad place, he loves to drink, and he hadn’t changed one iota. He’s also, surprisingly annoying and the rest of the group dislikes him. That’s something new and fresh for an Edgar Wright film.

The second theme similarly focuses on the fact that sometime people change and sometimes places from our past have changed. In the world of this film, both the other main characters and the town of Newton Haven have changed. I will not elaborate on the town’s change any further beyond noting that this is an Edgar Wright film and there is a science fictional element to the story. Instead I will leave it as a mystery as it was for me. I also urge those that are reading this review to avoid watching the film’s trailer. Trust me, it’s worth ignoring it. You’ll thank me after you watch the film.

Penultimately, there’s the character of Sam Chamberlain (Rosamund Pike), Oliver’s sister, with whom both Gary and Steven were once in love. From the moment that she reenters their lives, their puppy dog love and constant competition with one another flares up. Those scenes are not only funny but are also heartfelt and bittersweet, overall.

Lastly, there are the pub names. Each one is self-referential towards what will transpire within those pubs. It’s very meta but it serves the plot, as yet another layer is added to the story.

We have a pub crawl; we have the past and present colliding, changing, and remaining the same simultaneously; we have pub brawls that are choreographed by a member of the Jackie Chan Stunt Team, in which the camera work is superb and the camera stays on the actors for lengthy periods of time, a la the Kung Fu days of yore; we have a nifty sci-fi element that’s both creepy and awesome; we have fantastic cinematography, seeing that the movie was shot on film and that every single shot is crammed with details that one can only notice after repeat viewings (like how almost every single pub, at one point, has its corresponding number written somewhere into the backgrounds of certain shots); we have a story that focuses on alcoholism and possibly even darker material; and we have a ridiculously fresh, hilarious, brilliantly written and tightly edited film.

This may sound like I’m hyping the film more than I really should, but I give it high praise and claim that The World’s End is Edgar Wright’s best film. He co-wrote it with Simon Pegg and together they wrote a terrific screenplay that is remarkably tight, nearly perfect, and oftentimes utterly brilliant. The film is heartfelt, boasts terrific performances from the entire cast, is entirely character driven, and often times feels real because it tends to become emotional at times and doesn’t ham up the melodrama more than it should. The World’s End is one of 2013’s very best films and should be added to everyone’s queue to be viewed in the near future.

There is a plethora of special features including not one, but three commentary tracks, all of which involve Edgar Wright. But the one special feature that I highly recommend above all else, and that everyone should watch after the film is done is called “Signs & Omens.” This one will blow your minds.

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