Terminal is an inscrutable film that is garish, full of itself, and builds towards a final twist that cheats the audience and fails to justify its own unnecessarily convoluted structure. Still, though. Margot Robbie’s always good.
Terminal runs for about 90 minutes, and I couldn’t for the life of me tell you what a single one of them was about. I can, though, tell you what the film looks like, which is the studio floor of that woman who creates art by drinking paint and making herself puke it up.
Drenched in gaudy neon that backlights the various femme fatale poses of Margot Robbie, who stars and co-produces and wears a lot of outfits, Terminal isn’t so much a terrible film as an inscrutable one. It has a style and sensibility that is second-hand but rearranges the components in a way that is all its own; problem is, you have to imagine nobody makes movies like this because they’re not enjoyable to watch.
I honestly don’t know what the film is about, besides, I suppose, one thing after another. Margot in a dark wig and red lipstick badgers an unseen figure in a confessional booth who, thanks to the framing, might as well be us, but Lord knows what her game is. Sometimes she’s a blonde, lounging behind the counter of an all-night diner, exchanging unpleasant banter with a hairy hitman (Dexter Fletcher) and his good-looking associate. Simon Pegg hacks his lungs up as a terminally-ill grammar school professor, in the same diner but also in a train station where Mike Myers in some kind of Mike Myers mask occasionally limps around with a janitor’s cart. All the characters seem in on some illicit secret that the audience is never made privy to; I suspect it’s whether the director, Vaughn Stein, was trying to make a joke or not.
The writing, again courtesy of Stein, holds no clues either. It’s the kind of bitten-off back-and-forth patter that thinks the odd nod to classic literature lends it profundity. Even a half-lunatic view of life will do as the basis for literature if it is sincerely held, of course, which is something George Orwell once wrote. Aren’t I clever?
There’s still something to be said for Margot Robbie, even if based on this and her role as Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad, that thing isn’t intelligence. But she can act, and there’s no substitute for the kind of innate sexual charisma she has, especially when a filmmaker allows it to overflow. You can’t get sick of watching her – or at least I can’t. In the case of Terminal, though, I wish I had. By the time the twist is deployed, and it turns out that a decent chunk of the plot was kept hidden from the audience anyway, you’ll realise that you should have got off long before the journey’s end.