In a neon-filled city, the pair of killers is carrying out their dark plan while a few characters meet with a sweet yet odd waitress. Her charm and behavior lead the story to open and their lives to unravel in front of the viewer’s eyes.
In this crime thriller from writer/director Vaughn Stein, twists and turns make up a good part of the story which is filled with mystery and definitely dark humor. The story here pits odd characters versus odder ones and sets them all in a dark world with neons aplenty and seemingly no other people with the exception of inside a cleverly named strip club. The story, settings, and characters all make references to Alice in Wonderland throughout the film but this is definitely not a modern retelling of the tale. It owes a lot to it and pays its respect but the story on the whole is much much darker. That being said, this dark story is fun to watch and to see its elements unfold and unfurl.
The lead of Annie is played by Margot Robbie who is fantastic in this part. She plays this lady as part sweetheart, part maniacal loon while maintaining a sense of logic and a strong magnetism for other characters and the viewers to be pulled to. Annie’s got something hidden up her sleeve and Robbie plays with this to create a mysteriously layered lead. Playing another character that is more than he seems is Simon Pegg as Bill, a man who may be wanting to die but is definitely afraid of what awaits him on the other side. Pegg plays a man with a very dark side and does so with his usual charm and a side of melancholy that pulls the viewer to him even though something is off about him. Playing the duo of killers are Max Irons as Alfred and Dexter Fletcher as Vince. Fletcher plays one cranky mofo and his way of interpreting this is a delight to watch. Irons plays a happier character and gives his part and the proceedings a bit of hope. Playing a mysterious part that is integral to the story and to its twist is a surprisingly non-grating Mike Myers. He does use a British-like accent here which is better than seen before from him and his acting is almost restrained, something of a miracle for him. A couple other cast members worthy of notice are two actors fans of British cinema should recognize: Nick Moran and Matthew Lewis. Both of their appearances are entertaining to watch and bring a little something extra to the film.
Terminal is not only a strong story with great acting, it’s also a visually stunning film. While most of the film is bathed in darkness, light plays an important factor. Most of the establishing shots for its mysterious city are exterior shots with a good amount of neon signs. These are bright, colorful, and cheerful almost against the dark general settings. They contrast nicely against the indoor scenes and the noir-ish story. The story and these settings and neon lights are shot with masterful cinematography by Christopher Ross. His work here is careful with mindful framing from start to finish. Scenes are shot to either invite the viewer in, appeal to their senses, or simply give them a fly-on-the-wall view on scenes. Some of the sequences are so well shot, they look like perfectly lit, perfectly framed masterpieces of photography. The effect all of this has on the visual aspect of the film is tremendous and brings much more than basic imagery to the story.
Overall, the film’s look is one that is evenly strong throughout from the neon lighted outdoors to the dark and moody indoor settings. The production design by Richard Bullock with set decorations by Zoltan Frank and art direction by Adrien Asztalos work together to create a fully immersive world, one that is unique and attractive while also dark and enticing. Their work creating this world for Annie and all
to evolve in helps the film feel like its own universe in a bottle.Supporting the visuals are the soundtrack and score. The soundtrack uses carefully selected songs that fit their scenes perfectly. These songs are dreamlike at times, adding to the dark fairytale feel of the film as a whole. The musical score by Tony Clarke and Rupert Gregson-Williams adds an extra layer to the darkness and mystery, subtly underlining the action at times and simply accompanying it at others.
Terminal is one of those films that suck the viewer in right from the beginning with strong images filled with pop of colors and a magnetic Margot Robbie then it keeps them glued to its neon-lighted dark fairytale of murder, mysteries, and Alice in Wonderland references. It’s a fascinating watch throughout with a strong cast of performers, some serious oddities, and masterfully created imagery. The attention to details on all levels of film craft is something that will keep many coming back again and again.