Director: Vaughn Stein
Writer: Vaughn Stein
Starring: Margot Robbie, Simon Pegg, Mike Myers, Max Irons, Dexter Fletcher
Few other films released in recent years can better personify the phrase 'style over substance' than Terminal.
From a visual standpoint, Terminal is quite a success. It is an eye-popping and stylish collision of colour in a seedy city blend of Snatch (2000) and Sin City (2005). The whole film is almost completely starved of natural light, being lit instead by a sea of neon signs advertising hotels, girls and cigarettes - every single scene is alive with vibrant shades of greens and reds and yellows which blend and blur and manifest a really unique and edgy atmosphere. It's a sleazy and moody place to be, a vibrant underbelly with lots of shadowy areas between all the colour where trouble can brew. Enhancing the harsh and quirky environment is a fantastically diverse and expressive accompanying soundtrack which confirms Terminal as an audiovisual success.
It's quite a fascinating world which has been created, but one which, unfortunately, feels hollow. Beauty is only skin deep it seems, and underneath Terminal's polished veneer is something far less impressive. The story flicks between too dominant story-lines; both involve Margot Robbie but one features Simon Pegg as an acquiescent terminally ill English teacher and the other involves two abrasively cockney hit men (Fletcher and Irons). It is a tale of murder and betrayal which begins with many questions but isn't in a rush to provide answers. Unfortunately, this puzzle is one which no one wanted to solve, and continuously struggles to be inspiring or engaging; neither story-line possesses any real energy, and none of its several 'penny-drop' moments are particularly jaw-dropping. One culprit behind the film's soullessness may be its awkward script which the cast consistently struggle to sell convincingly.
Another culprit may be its lack of definition which doesn't allow us to fully understand exactly what kind of story is actually being told. The vast majority of the film feels sloppy and unambitious, both narratively and from a more practical standpoint. It is dotted with only a few instances of interesting cinematography, most notably an exploration of various suicide methods which is one of the more imaginative and dynamic scenes in the film. It serves as a cruel tease of what this film is capable of, but its poorly organised story and lack of iconic or meaningful moments leaves the film feeling desperately empty and lifeless.
Margot Robbie brings with her some Harley Quinn style derangement, toning it down only ever so slightly to portray the manipulative and dangerously motivated Annie. She is potentially one of the film's best elements (after its look), being more dynamic and spirited than much else in the film, but even she struggles to fully sell dialogue which often feels quite forced - perhaps partly due to her slightly odd British accent. Simon Pegg's contribution is adequate, if not forgettable, which is positive considering that his storyline feels like it was messily transplanted in at the last moment. It sits awkwardly within the film's narrative, ending slightly too early and dampening the film's final conclusion.
Fletcher and Iron's criminal partnership would have been an ideal reservoir from which to draw on some hitman-related black comedy, but is an opportunity which is sadly missed. Instead, they do little more than irritate and annoy as they trade numerous insults and nondescript threats of violence. Mike Myers' arrival is wonderfully strange, but is distracting at first and feels extremely out of place, being more confusing than amusing. His later involvement is much more involving and interesting, but arrives a little too late in the game, and does nothing to explain the bizarre nature of his character's earlier demeanour. Terminal's sloppy story-line isn't even compensated for by interesting or likeable characters.
Terminal is hugely superficial, looking utterly fantastic on the surface but lacking any real substance or identity underneath. There are a few moments which demonstrate some imagination and zest, but it is mostly an uninspiring tale filled by uninteresting characters with unnatural dialogue. It is true shame and a waste of a brilliantly vivid and polychromatic backdrop.
In one line: Terminal is visually exciting but narratively disappointing crime thriller which has plenty of good looks but little charm to go with it.