So, The World's End centers around Gary King (Simon Pegg) whose life peaked one night in 1990, when, at the age of 18, he and his friends attempted the Golden Mile: a bar crawl involving one pint per person at each of the pubs in their small English hometown of Newton Haven. They were young, bursting with energy, and not quite up to the challenge. Now in his early 40s, King wants to reassemble the Five Musketeers in order to repeat the evening and succeed this time.
There's only one real problem with Gary's plan, which is that while he has treaded the same liquid at the bottom of a bottle for 23 years, his friends have grown up. They have wives and kids and respectable jobs, and the idea of another night of teenage(-style) debauchery isn't just daunting--it's unappealing. Gary recruits each man by visiting them separately and implying that everybody else is already in--even Andy (Nick Frost) who hasn't spoken to Gary since The Accident.
The four friends meet on the appointed day at the appointed hour, and spend almost an hour getting reacquainted while waiting for the terminally late Gary, who shows up the same car he's been driving since high school. Gary's night is off with a bang. The others are off with a shrug, but they stick together because it's nice to reconnect, and after all, somebody needs to keep an eye on Gary. Over the course of the night, old wounds are reopened, sobering conversations are drunkenly slurred, and we learn what The Accident was.
In a perfect world, the marketing for the movie would only have shown us these scenes. We'd all have gone to The World's End expecting a Very Serious comedy about addiction, and we would have been completely thrown off our footing when the population of Newton Haven was revealed to have been replaced by blue-blooded space androids. The World's End abruptly switches gears from a rowdy (if bittersweet) good time to a paranoid suspense movie in the same vein as Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and Gary still wants to have a pint at each of the pubs, finish up at the aptly-named The World's End.
This is what director Edgar Wright excels at: the movie industry classifies him as a director of comedies, but in fact, he makes well-plotted genre films that just happen to be extremely funny. It certainly doesn't hurt that Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are always along for the ride. I understand that the studio doesn't want to risk upsetting people with a bait-and-switch, but by now this trio are popular enough (at least in the UK) that I think they could have gotten away with it. Their previous pictures, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz are comedies, too, but they're also tightly-wound and suspenseful, and more graphically violent than one normally expects from a comedy.
That's not to say that Wright is just pushing the content envelope; these elements are nothing new in Serious Movies. Wright's difference is that he knows he's good enough at comedy that he puts making a good movie first, and treats the comedy as a bonus. Wright truly understands the potential of the medium, and he exploits it so effortlessly that you don't have to notice his skill unless you really want to. A longer review might delve into his expertise at framing shots, at working with sound and music, and at moving the camera, but this is demonstrated much better in a justifiably fawning video which has been making the rounds for the last year. Have a look:
Here's the trailer: