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Edgar Wright’s informal Cornetto trilogy ends with his most underappreciated sci-fi movie

From misguided pub crawls to blue-blooded alien invaders, this grand finale has it all.

Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Eddie Marsan all drink from their beer ...

Going back to your hometown can be a strange experience. You might be surprised and delighted to realize that very little has changed since you left, but the town will likely still feel, in some odd, unexplainable way, different than it did before. More often than not, that feeling is the natural result of how much you’ve changed and grown.

But what if that nagging feeling wasn’t just the result of your own experience? What if there really was a new secret suddenly lurking beneath the surface of the town you once called home? That’s the idea at the center of The World’s End, Edgar Wright’s 2013 sci-fi comedy thriller. The final installment in Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost’s Cornetto Trilogy offers the most absurd answer to the question.

In doing so, it not only delivered a sci-fi take on the kind of mundane human experience that most people can relate to, but it also gave the trio of creators the chance to take the biggest and weirdest swing of their careers to date. It’s well worth checking out before it leaves HBO Max.

The World’s End follows Gary King (Pegg), a 40-year-old alcoholic burnout who reunites with his high school friends in their hometown so they can complete an infamous pub crawl that foiled them in their youth. Their return is met with intense scrutiny and paranoia by the locals, whom Gary and his friends quickly realize aren’t as ordinary as they appear.

Like most of Wright’s films, The World’s End zooms by at a breakneck pace. The film boasts the slick, efficient editing style that established Wright as a filmmaker worth paying attention to in the mid-2000s, and its unique blend of action and comedy places it squarely in the same tonal space as the other two installments of the Cornetto Trilogy, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.

But unlike Hot Fuzz, which goes out of its way to parody contemporary action filmmaking techniques, The World’s End features many of the most well-made action sequences that Wright has constructed. That’s especially true of the film’s standout bathroom brawl, which is equally thrilling and humorous, and marks the moment where The World’s End’s alien invasion premise takes center stage. On the comedy front, the film’s reprisal of some recurring jokes from Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz never come across as contrived, instead further bolstering The World’s End’s infectiously playful spirit.

A race of alien androids conquer a small British village in The World’s End.

Focus Features

In typical Edgar Wright fashion, The World’s End also features an impressive ensemble cast, including Pegg, Frost, Rosamund Pike, Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan, Pierce Brosnan, and David Bradley. Of the film’s supporting players, Considine and Brosnan leave the biggest lasting impressions. Pegg, meanwhile, mines King’s desperation and emotional baggage so well that his performance still ranks as the best he’s given to date.

Pegg, Wright, and Frost use The World’s End’s ridiculous sci-fi premise to craft another fascinating treatise on small-town malaise. The film’s characters fit well with those featured in Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, and King’s desire to hold onto his high school glory days makes him the Cornetto Trilogy’s most tragic figure.

His oblivious, unyielding personality not only ensures that The World’s End shares many of the same themes as its predecessors, but it also leads to the film’s apocalyptic conclusion, which sends the signature trilogy out on a fittingly subversive and bizarre note.

The World’s End is available to stream on HBO Max until December 31.

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