Margot Robie Joins Simon Pegg for Mysterious Neon Thriller ‘Terminal’
“Curiouser and curiouser” is often quoted in the stylish thriller “Terminal.” “Curiouser,” for all its bad English, fits the bill when describing this rabbit hole of a film. Saturated in neon, “Terminal” is a dark but fun story of a handful of ill-fated strangers.
There can be something a little askew about Margot Robie’s blond sex symbol beauty. It was most noticeable in “I Tonya”. But in that film, it was on purpose: Margot Robie as cute trailer trash. In “Terminal,” it serves the convoluted story where a half a dozen troubled individuals converge and interact. It is never made clear until two thirds of the way into the movie if there even is a main character and who exactly qualifies for that role. The survival of all of them can be linked to the beginning narration from an unidentified woman. With another Lewis Carroll reference, she shares, “to survive it (the world according to “Terminal), one has to be as mad as a hatter, which luckily I am.” Robie provides what seems to be the supporting role of Annie, the waitress of a small diner where everything is lit in multiple hues of neon and tables are unrealistically set five feet and more apart. No hint of food or flies.
But neon is the visual theme of the six locations that dominate this “Terminal” world as created by production designer Richard Bullock and cinematographer Christopher Ross. Whether it’s the chapel with it claustrophobic confessional or the nightclub named with another Carroll reference, The Rabbit Hole, the sets are bare and infused with multiple neon lights and colors. Even the titular location, the mostly empty train station reveals its interiors with that same glare of neon. A monolithic neon sign adorns the outside roof flashing the title “Terminal”. The word “Terminal” can either refer to its function as a train station or the ultimate fate of most everyone in the film. It is a “wonderland” that operates on its own stylistic reality, though darker and more dangerous than the one where Alice found herself.
Simon Pegg and Michael Myers, most known for their comedic flair, are anything but in “Terminal.” Their characters demand empathy, an emotion that reveals itself rarely. Max Irons is appealing as the young romantic hit man, a bit too naïve for his own good. In his feature film debut, director/ writer Vaughn Stein provides style with a nostalgic flair. It’s not just Lewis Carroll who is referenced, but hints (and sometimes more than hints) of David Lynch, “Blade Runner”, and Kar-wai Wong’s “Fallen Angels” inform the narrative. As a thriller/ mystery, “terminal” manages to mix a colorful nostalgia for 50’s neon and film noir with a contemporary #metoo zeitgeist.
Ultimately, though messy, “Terminal” has the visual fun of a futuristic graphic novel. It takes its viewers down dark, confusing byways. Is anyone to be trusted? Is anyone who they say they are? It continues in this manner until the end when Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum provides the resolution. And to understand what that means, one will have to see the film.
“Terminal” opens May 11 in select theaters.