Welcome witches and warlocks,
Today I will be reviewing the noir thriller TERMINAL (2018) by writer/director Vaughn Stein. To best describe the story, I will use my own plot summary:
In a lonely diner at a deserted train station, an enigmatic waitress begins to get involved in the lives of two hitmen, a hobbled janitor, and a suicidal teacher. While all four are drawn to her, none realize that she might be playing her own game.
As she is playing the protagonist let us talk about Margot Robbie a bit to get the ball rolling. This role allows Robbie to really let loose as she as her magnetic, manic nature is balanced out by her mysterious motivations. Much like the men around her, we are quickly drawn into her web thanks to her comically dark rants about the fun ways for one to kill themselves or the little morsels she drops about her own backstory. She comes across like a less obvious version of Robbie’s famous Harley Quinn role, but this time she is dropped into the center of a noir thriller.
While Robbie is certainly the star of the piece, she is by no means the only good performance. In fact, I thought that the majority of the cast were quite convincing in their roles. Of the supporting players, Dexter Fletcher and Simon Pegg deserve some extra notice as both turn in their usual solid performances. It helps that their characters had a sort of dark sense of humor about them that felt perfectly in line with Robbie’s manic role.
This world manages to incorporate the smoky rooms and neon signs one expects from a modern day noir. I was especially impressed with the lighting design as it managed to evoke a truly timeless feel, as if we had stepped into an old Humphrey Bogart movie that was awash in color. The empty train station and sleazy rooms were cut through with shafts of light that attempted, to no avail, to illuminate the dark underbelly of our out of time city.
The city itself was filled out with a few seedy locales and some stunning sets. Of particular note is the club La Lapin Blanche which was gorgeously designed. This neon soaked club played a very welcome supporting role as it fleshed out the idea that this was an occupied city, something one could forget given the small amount of characters on screen at any one time. The rest of the sets, while not nearly as grand, evoked the noir vibe with their swirling staircases or gritty look.
While I enjoyed much of what was on offer as far as look and acting go, I did take issue with some of the plotting. The story itself was entertaining thanks to the mysterious nature of our protagonist’s motivations, but as things went along the twists seemed rather obvious. One plot point in particular was telegraphed so early on that when they finally decided to bring it into the light, the obviousness of the twist made the reveal feel overly long. If the plot had been a bit less obvious, this would have been a slam dunk.
All in all, the composition is absolutely gorgeous and the cast rocks their roles. There were some story issues, but the rest of the piece went a long way in making up for the easy to guess plot. Fans of movies like Out of the Past (1947) or Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) will find this to have similar sensibilities.
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