Terminal sees an assortment of interlocking stories featuring a pair of bickering hitmen holed up in a hotel room awaiting orders, a terminally ill teacher contemplating suicide, a creepy railway station cleaner who communicates entirely in regulatory rhetoric, and a mysterious café waitress who is more than she seems.
Terminal is an odd beast. Its aesthetic is influenced by film noir and pulp fiction, and takes place in a self-contained world of perpetual night similar to the likes of Dark City or Blade Runner, an anonymous metropolis soaked in neon that illuminates a purgatory of desperation and surrender. There are passing implications that the story takes place at some unspecified point in the future after national infrastructure has collapsed, leaving people to stumble and sleepwalk though empty existences, the artificial chromatic explosions of electric lighting the only sign that life’s vibrancy is yet to be completely snuffed out. The obvious artifice of the scenery adds to the unreality of the setting, portraying a dilapidated pastiche of civilisation, as though imitating the details of a society long past whose function nobody can quite remember.
At the centre of the spiralling surrealism is Margot Robbie as enigmatic waitress Annie. A modern day femme fatale, she employs her flawless beauty as a weapon, with her clothes, hair and makeup in perfect arrangement for each scenario to manipulate precisely the required reaction of whoever she’s talking to. Whether her words are insightful, defiant, flirty, controlling or seductive, or whether she’s pointing a gun, leaning on a café counter or spinning around a stripper pole, never a moment passes over which she isn’t in complete control. Her eyes still gleam with the same mania unleashed in Suicide Squad, but while Harley Quinn is driven by her directionless insanity, Annie’s madness pierces her environment with meticulous focus.
As the hitmen, Dexter Fletcher and Max Irons perform a mismatched double act of a seasoned pro and a young hothead, the subjects of their constant arguing providing more context of the futureless void of blackened sin into which this world has fallen. Simon Pegg’s performance mixes his humorous and dramatic sensibilities into a walking shroud of black comedy, his scenes with Robbie sparking with verbose dialogue underpinned by his despondent state of mind. Portraying the nameless station attendant, Mike Myers’ welcome returns to film sees his features faintly twisted by prosthetics and with as many exaggerated mannerisms as any of his Austin Powers creations.
In all honesty, the plot’s twists and turns are fairly standard and straightforward to predict, but they are stitched together with such stylish precision it’s difficult to hold that against it. Likewise there are a couple of unnecessary revelations that don’t augment the story, but certainly add to its compellingly convoluted lunacy.
Terminal is difficult to categorise, but equally hard to ignore. The unabashed hyper-reality of its setting draws you in, and then its assortment of varyingly demented performances keeps you engrossed until the end.
Terminal / Cert: 15 / Director: Vaughn Stein / Screenplay: Vaughn Stein / Starring: Margot Robbie, Simon Pegg, Dexter Fletcher, Max Irons, Mike Myers / Release Date: August 6th