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The World’s End (2013)

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The “Cornetto” trilogy has always been about humour, heart, and homage. And even though it’s been six long years since we last visited a quirky, enthralling, and action-packed world created by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright…”The World’s End” was well worth the wait. That being said, the fact that Pegg, Wright, and company were able to pull it off is no surprise at all. It’s simply a rarity for a trilogy to be so evenly brilliant, so skepticism is understandable. Nevertheless, “The World’s End” is a fitting conclusion to such a fantastical series. Undoubtedly, it’s sad to see one of the most critically and all-around successful trilogies come to a close…but much like our way of life, nothing lasts forever. “The World’s End” is a superlative finale to a near-perfect trilogy and while not as strong as “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz,” it isn’t far off…

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Gary King (Pegg) is somewhat of a low-life and a borderline alcoholic. One day, having been reminded of his youth and happier times. Gary sets out to track down his old friends in order to convince them to complete a pub crawl they all failed to accomplish when they were younger. Upon successfully persuading Peter (Marsen), O-Man (Freeman), Steven (Considine), and Andy (Frost) to accompany him on this idiotic journey, the crew head back to their hometown of Newton Haven. After the group finishes up the first few pints, they begin to realize that something is amiss. However, deciding to carry on, Gary and his pals soon come to terms that this night will not go as originally planned.

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For all of it’s playful hilarity and jaw-dropping action, I don’t think the public expected “The World’s End” to be so decidedly earnest, disheartening, and tragic. Without question, it’s the most serious and honest chapter of the trilogy. After removing layer upon layer of relatable fears and experiences, such as dissipating youth and failed relationships, not to mention the triviality and flaws of the human race. It’s quite upsetting to realize how deep and truthful this satirical, bittersweet rabbit hole is. No matter how disingenuous and unfazed this group of pub-crawlers appears to be facing down their impending doom, they reek of mortality, mistakes, vulnerability, and imperfection. That being said, the final confrontation, themes, and the film as a whole is funny and unforgettable. Yet resonates a harsh, inevitable wake-up call.

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Perhaps the most important thing about “The World’s End” is that it didn’t let the previous entries down. Granted, it is somewhat a blend of the first two entries, brandishing similar plot points and themes. In addition, the premises and specific style of the “Cornetto” trilogy is becoming a bit stale and a tad bit predictable. That being said, “The World’s End’s” candidness, fresh comedy, and fast-paced violence is enough to differentiate it from the others. Each entry carries its own merit and traits that make them like no other. It feels like the right time for Wright and company to move on and bring to fruition their bright, limitless futures. With the “Cornetto” trilogy, Nick Frost, Simon Pegg, and Edgar Wright have created something that is truly invaluable, priceless… They should take unmeasurable pride in what they have accomplished.

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Without question, Edgar Wright is the most responsible for the triumph of not only “The World’s End,” but the “Cornetto” trilogy as a whole. His refusal to make pictures inside the norm is easily the most promising aspect of his career thus far and is what makes this trilogy so utterly brilliant. Wright continues to employ a Guy Ritchie-esque style melded with his unwavering, youthful wonder and cinephile heart. Essentially, this is what makes Wright’s films so intoxicating and enjoyable. But more importantly, what sets him apart as a filmmaker is the passion and humbleness in which he derives vision and creativity. He conjures up films that he, as a cinephile would cherish, which is the reason he is so respected and relevant to movie lovers every where. Sure, things might get a little hectic here and there, especially when your filming a battle to save all mankind, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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One thing that no one will ever accuse the “Cornetto” trilogy of having is shallow ensembles. And with “The World’s End,” we are treated to much of the same. Starring the exuberant, trustworthy duo of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, a wonderful supporting cast that features Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, and Eddie Marsen, in addition to a plethora of brief cameos. “The World’s End” arguably contains the strongest cast in the trilogy. Freeman is sort of the unsung star of the group, having landed the role of Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson’s “Hobbit” trilogy. He continues to provide evidence as to why he earned the job in the first place and apart from his reprising role on “Sherlock,” Freeman has never been better. Marsen and Considine, both severely underused in the business today, have an undeniable comedic charisma that is on full display in “The World’s End” and will hopefully garner them the attention they deserve.

As predicted, it’s Pegg and Frost who take the reigns of this fantastic adventure, with one significant change. Nick Frost is the responsible, sensible wet blanket, well, for as long as he can muster it anyhow and Simon Pegg is the  idiotic, chaotic friend, who isn’t really much of a pal at all. Now, aside from the closing of the trilogy, the biggest tragedy here is the disconcerting underuse and lack of acknowledgement from filmmakers everywhere towards Frost. Who, continues to be an under-appreciated talent and arguably gives the performance of his career in “The World’s End.” As for Pegg, who’s chagrin, heedless, and selfish performance is unfathomably effective. Pegg, who has gone on to star in several big-budget blockbusters, makes a fortuitous return to his humble beginnings and certainly adds another invaluable notch to his already stellar repertoire.

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Just a brief shout-out to Alice Lowe, Reece Shearsmith, Michael Smiley, Bill Nighly, and Steve Oram for their brief, but memorable roles in “The World’s End.” It’s nice to see Wright give a little extra screen time to the great, up-and-coming filmmakers for, his homeland.

Funny, heartfelt, and all-around awesome. “The World’s End” is the closing chapter die-hard “Cornetto” fans and cinephiles were hoping for and so much more.

The World’s End: 9 out of 10.

A Field in England (2013)

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One can deduce the decidedly plain warning issued at the beginning of the film as mere tactics, even go as far as to mock its triviality, but cinephile or not… you truly have no idea what you’re getting yourself into. Ben Wheatley’s “A Field in England” is a hallucinogenic, achromatic, and visceral yarn. A pulsating thriller oozing with disturbing content and vivid, genuinely stomach-churning visuals. However, Wheatley’s third film in as many years isn’t all observation and no substance, far from it. A viewer’s opinion regarding what took place in “A Field in England” and what it all meant is a lot like a snowlike…as in no two are alike… The film’s extremely diverse influences and varying motivations are what make it like no other film you’ve ever experienced. There isn’t much viewers will agree upon after watching “A Field in England” except that Ben Wheatley is indeed the most intriguing, terrifying filmmaker in cinema today.

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During the English Civil War in the 17th century, Whitehead (Shearsmith) flees from the battlefield and his strict master. Down in the dirt, he meet Cutler (Pope) who is holding two travellers captive, Jacob (Ferdinando) and Friend (Glover). Upon being abducted by Cutler as well, Whitehead and the group journey across a field to find O’Neill (Smiley). Having Found O’Neill, the group is forced to help him and Cutler find a treasure buried somewhere in the field. Being subdued by hallucinogenic mushrooms and forced to work, the group soon begins to succumb to their own thoughts and mental instability.

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“A Field in England’s” obscurity and surrealistic texture evoke an array of mental and physical reactions that more often than not feel brought on subliminally and are best left uncontrolled. It’s a complex blend of dark humour, thought-provoking characters, and brash imagery that result in a mystifying adventure that isn’t for the faint of heart. Never has a film generated such an unsettling, yet resplendent contrast full of infuriating, dynamic, and poetic sequences that are enough to drive one insane for the film’s entirety. Not only does “A Field in England” render the viewer helpless throughout, it lingers, almost unwelcome until you’re able to comprehend and conclude. It’s thick, tonal consistency, horrific mood, and unbearably trippy scenes are so vibrant, entrancing, and unnerving, it’s tough to label it within a single genre or anything known to man.

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Driven by the bonds formed amongst the shady individuals who each search and yearn for a fortuitous intervention they have no legitimate reason to believe exists, whether it’s buried treasure or religion. “A Field in England” is a taut character study that doubles as a hypnotic allegory at the beginning of the western world. Whether you chose to look at it from a certain perspective or not is entirely at your discretion. Seeing as the film has en endless amount of interpretations, each valid take is as valuable as the next. I’ve yet to come across any two individuals who’ve witnessed the film and agree on an explanation. Treading somewhere between folklore, socio-political, and historical relevance. “A Field in England” is an intricate mishmash of importance and insignificance. To be honest, I’ve still not made up my mind as to what I think this film is about, perhaps I never will. I’ve watched it a few times now and I love the fact that I’m constantly dissecting, analyzing, and surmising.

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Aside from the film’s obvious abstractness, it’s refreshing to see Wheatley step out of his comfort zone. While his initial releases seemed to be centred more or less in his genre wheelhouse. “A Field in England” is Wheatley at his most unrestrained and brilliantly showcases his growth. Without question, this is his most controversial and complete offering to date. While it may not be as decidedly vicious or magnificently gory as his previous offerings. “A Field in England” is much more psychologically perplexing, dramatically sensational, and is a visual feast unlike anything you’ve ever seen. And of course it contains some Wheatley trademarks such as excessively detailed gore, genuinely disturbing sequences, and utterly compelling characters. In my opinion, Wheatley’s work both behind the camera and on paper has never been better.

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While “A Field in England” is sure to be memorable for its stroboscopic, symmetrical, bizarre hallucinogenic trips, in addition to truly frightening scenes such as Whitehead emerging from the tent and so on. The performances of “A Field in England’s” entire ensemble are equally mind-blowing. Which kind of makes the entire film satirically ironic. As striking and monumental as the film is, there is a small part of me that wishes I could forget it. Starring Michael Smiley, Reece Shearsmith, Ryan Pope, Richard Glover, and Peter Ferdinando. “A Field in England” finds itself a cast who are up to the task of heading into the farthest reaches of their psyches, not knowing if they will return.

Without question, Shearsmith’s performance is phenomenal, from start to finish. Although, from the get go, Shearsmith dives head first into chaos and compassion, he ascends slowly to a gradual realization of this world’s true intentions. A ghostly, unbalanced, nerve-grinding portrayal that is not to be missed. Richard Glover does a fantastic job providing comic relief. However, his dramatic moments are something to marvel, honestly atmospheric. Michael Smiley gives a truly haunting portrayal of a stoic antagonist filled with all the wrong intentions and hateful greed. Ryan Pope is intimidating to say the least, and while it may not last, it trails off into something better. As for Peter Ferdinando, I feel he garners the least notice, but deserves better. His role is severely important and the performance he infuses into it is nothing short of spectacular.

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Disturbing, beautiful, and down-right insane. Ben Wheatley’s “A Field in England” is an acquired taste and a must see. And although I highly recommend it, odds are more than a few of you will dislike it, but a majority of you will despite it, along with me as well.

A Field in England: 8.5 out of 10.