I’ve always had a knack for crime thrillers. I think it’s always more fun when the crime thriller has an aura of mystery, a bit of some classic comedy and a whole lot of content made for grown-ups. At first glance, Terminal seems like the kind of film that is exactly just that.
If you’re going into it with minimal expectations, you’re going to come out after having a pretty decent time. However, if you’re expecting something unique, nostalgic, artistically poignant or inspiring; then “Terminal” will be nothing but a pure disappointment.
The neo noir crime thriller follows the story of two very different people. First off is Annie, a highly intellectual assassin who has a penchant for killing efficiently. She’s a terror, and has a hit list that is bigger than your regular bloke’s grocery list. The second main character here is Bill, who’s a bit more of a mysterious guy. Bill’s is in a situation that can only be called a ‘convoluted mess’. He’s trying to figure out ways to get out of it, however, it’s not very simple. Lucky for him, due to circumstances; Bill‘s paths collide with Annie at a discreet and desolate diner, and the bond that they create within this film is what will decide how Bill’s predicament turns out.
Before I begin talking about any of the other aspects of this film, I need to go ahead and criticize the direction first of all. Vaugh Stein is one of the few directors out there who has such a good eye for visuals yet such a poor connection with his own characters and their stories. He often manages to miss the mark, especially when it comes to the storytelling aspects of his films. These are living, breathing characters with a huge amount of potential yet that is completely slandered within the film. “Terminal” is just another example of that same formula repeated; an ambitious story with a great cast yet at the end of the day it turns out to be an empty husk of nothingness.
As I said, I do not like any of the story beats featured within this film. Furthermore, the main reasoning behind that verdict is because of the writing itself. The film is supposed to be this, chaotic thrillride that goes through many ups and downs with its characters, yet does nothing of the sort. It’s a pretty straight forward film from start to finish. The main thing is a key mystery at the center basis of the story, and the ending reveals it. That’s it, if you take out a huge chunk of the film from the middle to just before the climax, it remains exactly the same. Part of the reason why I think that is the case is because the film itself feels like a sluggish, slow paced, drama rather than a neo noir thriller.
What I can say about this film, in a good light is that this film is visually beautiful. That is an aspect of this film that I can truly appreciate. It does not just look beautiful visually, but also manages to retain that quality in its actors and the way they move, as well as the choreography of literally every single sequence. The framing and cinematography is a key component of this, this film would be nothing without its neon haze lighting. The film is filled with glistening colors, from Crimson Reds, to neon Blues and greenish hues. I really enjoyed, just staring at the screen while this film was playing.
One of the few things that helped this film look so jaw dropping gorgeous are the locations that it was shot in. The production team behind this film did a splendid job for the overall look of the film. The film is set in a fictional, anonymous and deeply violent city. Yet the main location that they chose to shoot this film in was in Hungary. Most of it was shot in the beautiful city of Budapest, which turned out to be the perfect location for a fictional, modern yet classical city. However other locations from Hungary also included the Old Soviet Air Force Base, Kiskunlacháza, Hungary.
While the film did look gorgeous, it wasn’t just visually gorgeous, it featured a brilliant cast of some wonderful actors who pushed it beyond the envelope. I don’t say this lightly but the actors and the cast is what has carried this film into being actually watchable. Margot Robbie plays the lead role of Annie, and delivers one of the best, and quirkiest performances of her career. Yet to be honest, it feels as though she was type-casted, the role of Annie is kind of similar to another, very popular character that Margot plays in Warner Bros and DC Extended Universe’s “Suicide Squad” films.
Simon Pegg on the other hand, was built for this role. It’s not his best role to be fair, yet he delivers a performance that you can remember long after the credits roll. What makes the cast of this film even more spectacular though, is the weirdly characteristic return of Mike Myers. This is not a comedy film, and Mike Myers has been away for awhile, seeing him return and doing such a mysterious and fun role that isn’t inside of a comedy film was a delight.
As for the other aspects of this film such as the soundtrack, editing, screenplay and the direction, none of those are good. I can’t remember a single line from the film that I felt was good writing, nor do I remember a single piece of music from within the film soundtrack. It’s honestly a bit dazzling, how a film with so much visual style, and originality lacked any sort of substance.
In conclusion, “Terminal” had the potential to be one of the most unique, trippy and original experiences in the modern neo noir collections. Yet as it turns out, Vaugh Stein is still not ready to handle films with even a hint of mystery or even just mysterious characters. It’s honestly a bit of a shame, I expected it to be at least something that I would like if not love.
However, despite having two of my favorite actors featured in it, as well as a wonderful visual style and a production studio that worked their butts off, “Terminal” is subpar at best. In all honesty, that is honestly one of the most disappointing things that I could say about a film.