Starring: Margot Robbie, Simon Pegg, Dexter Fletcher
Director: Vaughn Stein
Running Time: 95 mins
Terminal is a British/American film about a sprawling city from the future in which lives are made and lost every night, and two assassins plot a dark mission in the midst of all the confusion.
Visually striking, unique and philosophical; these are all adjectives that should sum up a masterpiece of cinema, but instead point to the very things that make Vaugh Stein’s Terminal such a painful mess. Devastatingly wasting the potential of an intriguing and atmospheric premise, Terminal ends up with an almost totally incoherent plot worsened by iffy performances and ridiculous twists, as well as long, drawn-out philosophical analyses that come off as forced, disingenuous and frankly tedious.
But let’s briefly start on the one thing that, at least occasionally, works for Terminal: the visuals. Now, while this is far from the best pulp, neo-noir thriller ever made, there are times that its blend between blinding neon lighting and dingy, Alphaville-style darkness promises to offer a little bit of atmospheric intrigue, standing as by far the brightest parts of the entire film.
Frustratingly, as striking as the visuals often are, so underwhelming and rather fake-looking they appear. The sets are less than spectacular, with the principal bar in which much of the film takes place lacking any moderately interesting dynamic, and the exterior, establishing shots featuring some very dodgy CGI, immediately taking away from the dark, grungy image of this future dystopia that director Stein is trying to create.
Alphaville, directed by Jean-Luc Godard all the way back in 1965, did a much, much better job at creating the same image and atmosphere, with far less technology and in black-and-white, and despite the simplicity of some of the techniques employed in that film, they come off in much more striking fashion than what Stein uses here, the clearest signs that this is a film lacking the talent and ability behind the camera to really impress.
On top of that, Terminal tries really, really hard to inject a degree of dramatic depth into the mix with a lengthy and often exhaustive use of philosophical analogies in its story. However, for those who at first weren’t particularly impressed by some of the visuals, the film’s heavy-handed philosophy makes for an even more tiresome watch, featuring some painfully long-winded conversations and deep emotional introspections that not only feel totally irrelevant to the already incoherent story, but are also repetitive and stupidly shallow in nature.
As a result, the whole core of the film breaks down even more dramatically, and with its terrible dialogue playing out right the way through, Terminal descends into an almost unintelligible mess as it tries to grapple with its neo-noir atmosphere, over-the-top philosophical depth and generally poor filmmaking.
And finally, despite an A-list cast, there isn’t much that can be done to save Terminal. Margot Robbie is okay in the lead role, although with a wobbly accent and a character with far less intrigue than is often hinted at, she doesn’t strike in the way she’s managed in her best roles. Supporting players Simon Pegg, Dexter Fletcher and even Mike Myers might bring some experience to the table, but they too feel like they’re phoning it in with a collection of inconsistent and dull characters.
As a result, Terminal is far from the most impressive movie you’ll see. It might be unique and bold with its style, and despite the odd bit of good-looking, atmospheric visual trickery, it’s mostly an incoherent mess of a film, falling flat on its face again and again as it tries to impress with heavy-handed philosophy, poor storytelling, disappointing performances and terrible dialogue, and that’s why I’m giving it a 5.3 overall.