Review – The World’s End

The Cornetto trilogy comes to a minty conclusion in this typically homage-heavy sci-fi comedy about bars, buddies, brawls and beer – lots of beer.

“Where Wright, Pegg and Frost go together from here who knows, but as the Cornetto trilogy’s final flavour The World’s End is sweet indeed”

Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost followed-up their cult TV series Spaced with the 2004 rom-zom-com Shaun Of The Dead, a slice of genius that embraced George A Romero’s Dead films while at the same time doing something truly original with the formula.

They teamed up again three years later for the even more successful Hot Fuzz, an action comedy that winked in the direction of cop buddy movies like Lethal Weapon and Bad Boys, but was still very much its own quirky beast.

Oliver (Martin Freeman), Steve (Paddy Considine), Gary (Simon Pegg), Andrew (Nick Frost) and Pete (Eddie Marsan) prepare to get annhiliated in The World's End

Oliver (Martin Freeman), Steve (Paddy Considine), Gary (Simon Pegg), Andrew (Nick Frost) and Pete (Eddie Marsan) prepare to get annihilated in The World’s End

As the years have ticked by, Wright, Frost and Pegg especially have eclipsed their humble TV beginnings to become Hollywood figures, but that hasn’t stopped them from getting the band back together one more time for this long-awaited final chapter in the Cornetto trilogy (so named for the appearance of the famous ice cream brand in each film).

The film starts with a lengthy exposition-heavy voiceover from Pegg’s Gary King, the rebellious cool kid who led his four mates Andrew, Steve, Oliver and Pete on an epic post-school quest to traverse the ‘Golden Mile’, a perilous pub crawl encompassing 12 pubs in their hometown of Newton Haven. Despite a brave attempt, the gang failed to make it to The World’s End, the Golden Mile’s final watering hole.

A young Gary (Thomas Law) and Andy (Zachary Bailess) consider what's to come of their lives in The World's End

A young Gary (Thomas Law) and Andy (Zachary Bailess) consider what’s to come of their lives in The World’s End

Now approaching 40, Gary tracks down his estranged buddies and convinces a reluctant Andrew (Frost), Steve (Paddy Considine), Oliver (Martin Freeman) and Pete (Eddie Marsan) to finally conquer the Golden Mile. An uncomfortable start to the crawl, made more awkward by the arrival of Oliver’s sister Sam (Rosamund Pike), suddenly takes a loony turn for the dangerously extraterrestrial.

Gary (Simon Pegg) unveils the map of 'the golden mile' showing all 12 watering holes in The World's End

Gary (Simon Pegg) unveils the map of the ‘Golden Mile’ showing all 12 watering holes, culminating at The World’s End

It would have been so easy for co-writer/director Wright, Pegg (also a co-writer) and Frost to have reheated the magic that made Shaun… and Hot Fuzz so adored, but to their credit they instead go off in another direction entirely, while still delivering the sort of joke rate that most ‘comedies’ don’t get anywhere near.

Gary is a pathetic character, an adult straightjacketed by stubborn arrested development who’s never been able to get past 1990. Still wearing the same goth clothing and still driving the same clapped out car he had as a teenager, Gary’s obnoxious, hard edges are softened out by Pegg’s sympathetic portrayal.

Gary (Simon Pegg), Oliver (Martin Freeman) and Steve (Paddy Considine) realise something is rotten in Newton Haven in The World's End

Gary (Simon Pegg), Oliver (Martin Freeman) and Steve (Paddy Considine) realise something is rotten in Newton Haven in The World’s End

The top-notch cast work splendidly off each other, each bringing their own unresolved baggage to what gradually turns into a painful, but necessary reunion for them all. Normally cast as resentful and/or angry, Marsan lets his hair down in a role that actually allows him to have a giggle, while Frost shows that when he’s given the right material (usually co-written by Pegg and Wright) he’s an actor with range.

Sam (Rosamund Pike) kicks butt in The World's End

Sam (Rosamund Pike) kicks butt in The World’s End

The film cleverly manages to have it both ways; in the one hand it drums home the message that there’s little point dwelling on the past, while at the same time wallowing in the nostalgia of its early 90s soundtrack, in particular Primal Scream’s seminal track Loaded.

Wright has cited the legendary sci-fi writer John Wyndham as a big influence and there are definite nods to his paranoid tome The Midwich Cuckoos (turned into the classic movie Village Of The Damned), while other 1950s sci-fi classics Invasion Of The Body Snatchers and The Thing From Another World are also interwoven into the film’s DNA.

Despite being very amusing, The World’s End isn’t as instantly likeable as either Shaun… or Hot Fuzz. Maybe it was the special effects getting in the way, or the increasingly bonkers plot, but something felt missing. That being said, the first two chapters in the trilogy improved with age, so there’s no reason to think The World’s End won’t become a richer experience on repeated viewings.

Where Wright, Pegg and Frost go together from here who knows, but as the Cornetto trilogy’s final flavour The World’s End is sweet indeed.

Great Films You Need To See – 24 Hour Party People (2002)

Never let the truth get in the way of a good story, especially when it’s told with as much, well, ecstasy as Michael Winterbottom’s chaotically crazy paean to the high watermark of the Manchester music scene.

One of the best British movies of this century's first decade, 24 Hour Party People has pills, thrills, bellyaches and plenty more besides

One of the best British movies of this century’s first decade, 24 Hour Party People has pills, thrills, bellyaches and plenty more besides

Paraphrasing John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, local TV reporter and music impresario (and the ultimate unreliable narrator) Tony Wilson would rather “print the legend” given the choice between that and the truth and Winterbottom and screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce are happy to go along.

Wilson is a singular figure and, played by Steve Coogan as Alan Partridge’s cooler, more successful brother, is as clever as he is funny, arrogant, pseudo-intellectual and eccentric. Although claiming at one point that “this is not a film about me; I’m a minor character in my own story” (in one of the film’s many fourth wall-breaking moments), 24 Hour Party People, like Madchester itself, wouldn’t exist without him.

Tony Wilson (Steve Coogan) and wife Lindsay (Shirley Henderson) attend the Sex Pistols' seminal 1976 gig at Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall in 24 Hour Party People

Tony Wilson (Steve Coogan) and wife Lindsay (Shirley Henderson) attend the Sex Pistols’ seminal 1976 gig at Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall in 24 Hour Party People

Winterbottom and Coogan gleefully pull the rug from under the audience right from the beginning of the movie, which starts in 1976 with Wilson throwing himself off a hill while attached to a hand-glider. After the elation comes the danger and finally the inevitable crash. Before we can work out the scene’s a metaphor for what’s to come, Wilson gets there ahead of us, saying straight to camera “obviously it’s symbolic, it works on both levels”. He goes on to add: “All I’ll say is … Icarus – If you know what I mean, great. If you don’t, it doesn’t matter; but you probably should read more.”

When not presenting quirky items that generally show up on the “And finally…” section of news programmes, Wilson fronted So It Goes, one of the only avenues in which to discover exciting new music before the days of the world wide web. In June 1976 he and 41 other people (including his first wife Lindsay, played by Shirley Henderson) attended the Sex Pistols’ seminal Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall gig (which Winterbottom cleverly films by intermingling archive footage for the close-ups of the Pistols) alongside the future movers and shakers of Manchester music (as well as Simply Red’s Mick Hucknall, who doesn’t count).

Ian Curtis (Sean Harris) on stage in 24 Hour Party People

Ian Curtis (Sean Harris) on stage in 24 Hour Party People

Through that gig, Wilson met Ian Curtis (Sean Harris) and the other members of soon-to-become post-punk poster boys Joy Division and created Factory Records. The film follows the crazy highs and the crazier lows of Factory’s turbulent existence, from Joy Division through to New Order (formed by the surviving members of Joy Division after Curtis’ suicide in 1980), the Happy Mondays, the Hacienda nightclub, the birth of rave culture and the inevitable implosion.

The no-nonsense Rob Gretton (Paddy Considine) and unconventional producer Martin Hannett (Andy Serkis) in 24 Hour Party People

The no-nonsense Rob Gretton (Paddy Considine) and unconventional producer Martin Hannett (Andy Serkis) in 24 Hour Party People

Winterbottom purposefully splits 24 Hour Party People into two distinct sections – everything that went on prior to Curtis hanging himself and everything that happened after. Curtis is given the respect he deserves; it’s through his band that Wilson formed Factory in the first place and his suicide is dealt with sensitively and suddenly. Harris’ portrayal of the troubled singer is excellent and particularly captures his intense and contorted on-stage persona (he’s even better than Sam Riley in 2007’s Control, the more autobiographical film about Curtis).

Following Curtis’ death, the film gets increasingly anarchic, reflecting both the times and the head space of Wilson, who doesn’t help himself by making a series of rash financial decisions in the name of art. He doesn’t care, for instance, when told Factory will lose money on every copy of New Order’s elaborately designed gatefold 12″ of Blue Monday as he thinks it won’t sell – only to be proved disastrously wrong when it goes on to become the highest-selling 12″ single in history.

Paul (Paul Popplewell) and Shaun Ryder (Danny Cunningham) up to no good in 24 Hour Party People

Paul (Paul Popplewell) and Shaun Ryder (Danny Cunningham) up to no good in 24 Hour Party People

Likewise, in spite of the fact the Hacienda is haemorrhaging cash he invests in new offices, which include a zinc roof that can only be observed from a helicopter and a £30,000 boardroom table that’s as pointless as it is cheap-looking. That was the dichotomy of Wilson; a can-do entrepreneur Thatcher would undoubtedly have been proud of had he not helped to usher in rave culture.

The film is strengthened by a rogue’s gallery of new and established talent, including Paddy Considine as the no-nonsense Joy Division/New Order manager Rob Gretton, John Simm as New Order singer Bernard Sumner, Andy Serkis as unpredictable genius producer Martin Hannett and Danny Cunningham as Happy Mondays frontman Shaun Ryder.

The seminal Hacienda nightclub brought back to life in 24 Hour Party People

The seminal Hacienda nightclub brought back to life in 24 Hour Party People

It also features a whole host of cameos, many of whom are used imaginatively in the movie, not least of which the real Tony Wilson as a TV producer lambasting the other Wilson’s presentation skills. In another inspired moment, Wilson recalls his wife having sex in a public toilet with Buzzcocks frontman Howard Devoto. As he walks out the camera pans to a cleaner who happens to be the real Howard Devoto, who turns to the camera and says: “I definitely don’t remember this happening.”

Despite the nods to Partridge, Coogan gives the role far more nuance than he’s credited for and clearly relishes the opportunity to flex his acting muscles. He’s arguably never been better.

Needless to say, if you’re a fan of Manchester’s music scene from the late 70s to the early 90s you’ll be in seventh heaven when it comes to the soundtrack (there’s no Stone Roses or Oasis here, however; they’re not part of the Factory story).

One of the best British movies of this century’s first decade, 24 Hour Party People has pills, thrills, bellyaches and plenty more besides.