Terminal review: There are some directors that opt for very “style over substance” approaches to their work; for his directorial debut, Vaughn Stein adopts this for this gorgeous, yet hollow crime-noir.

Terminal review by Awai Irfan.

Terminal review
Terminal review

The story follows a myriad of different criminals and crooks – from cocksure assassins (Dexter Fletcher and Max Irons) to a fishy school teacher (Simon Pegg) and a suspicious janitor (Mike Myers) – that all find themselves all constantly encountering a mysterious waitress (Margot Robbie). As their lives slowly start to intertwine in deadly and horribly messy ways, trouble begins to brew for everyone involved. Essentially, that is the best summation of what goes on in Terminal. It’s a bit of a hard film to put in a nutshell though because it’s just so sprawling and absolutely all over the place.

The writing here is quite clunky; for starters, the narratives are all too convoluted for their own good and are so poorly interwoven with one another that the film suffers from feeling too jarring and overstuffed at times. Tonally, it’s all over the place as a result of this too. There’s no real flow to the story on hand for most of the runtime; towards the end of the film, everything starts taking shape a little better but it’s quite a mess up until that point. The individual little threads themselves are fairly decent and you’ll never be bored watching this, but trying to keep up will be a task and it does mean the pace and tone is constantly fluctuating and frustrating.

Of course, as I mentioned at the start of this review, Stein opts for a stylish approach and the film is gorgeous. Cinematographer Christopher Ross utilises colours superbly here, and works well with production designer Richard Bullock to create a set and look that is constantly interesting. The shots are stunning and this is, easily, one of the most aesthetically interesting and complex films you’ll see all year – the shots are neon-soaked and dripping with a pulpy noir style and the innovative camera-work is crisp and impressive. It’s unarguably an immaculate looking piece. And it’s well-contained within a seedy criminal world that is so fascinating and full of promise, albeit if not quite explored to its full potential.

Terminal review
Terminal review

The performances are great too; Pegg, Irons, and Fletcher make up a superb supporting cast that all do fine work. The characters are fairly thin but the performances are convincing enough; everyone looks like they’re having fun basking in the ludicrous nature of this world and screenplay. But it’s Margot Robbie’s show to steal and, again, despite a weak character, she is excellent. Her performance is fittingly larger-than-life and dark and the actress is clearly relishing in her unusual, twisted Alice-in-Wonderland inspired Annie in a role very akin to her beloved Harley Quinn. It’s also great to see Mike Myers in a film, despite his limited screen time. The cast and the visuals keep Terminal watchable; it’s a piping hot mess of a film that feels like a hodgepodge of similar flicks but it’s definitely stylish and stunning and has a commendable cool about it.

Terminal review by Awais Irfan.

Terminal was reviewed at the 2018 Edinburgh Film Festival.