After being a second unit director or assistant director on films such as Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Snow White and the Huntsman, World War Z, The Danish Girl, In the Heart of the Sea, and Beauty and the Beast, Vaughn Stein took the plunge and branched out as a first time screenwriter and full-length feature director with the dramatic thriller Terminal.
Annie (Margot Robbie) is a waitress who is doubling as a vigilante with a personal vendetta and typically tops the night off by doing a pole dance or two in some lingerie to get some extra cash. Hitman partners Vince (Dexter Fletcher) and Alfred (Max Irons) become entangled in a dangerous assignment with a huge payoff that ignites a deadly feud between the two of them. Meanwhile, Bill (Simon Pegg) is an English teacher who has an incurable terminal disease that the doctors aren’t able to diagnose. Bill is searching for a way to end his life, but is too much of a chicken to pull the trigger. Annie along with a crippled and peculiar night supervisor by the name of Clinton (Mike Myers) are intertwined in both storylines with a convoluted and mostly predictable connection to everything within reach from the opening moments.
The film is gorgeous with beautiful cinematography by Christopher Ross (Black Sea, Monsters: Dark Continent). Terminal has striking visuals with colorful fluorescent lighting bouncing off the corners of dark alleyways and abandoned rooftops. The film is also littered with drastic shades of vibrant color and a dramatic use of lens flares resulting in a revenge based thriller coated in an incredibly slick finish. The unfortunate aspect is It honestly takes you awhile to unravel what the motive is behind all of this brightly lit malarkey. The film attempts to pull off this disjointed type of storyline that only someone like Quentin Tarantino or maybe Damon Lindelof could get away with. Terminal is attempting to keep its big twists a secret, but those twists are foreseeable from the get-go and the running around these characters do in the meantime mostly feels like they’re running in circles just to buy time.
The performances floating around in Terminal are hit or miss. Margot Robbie’s accent is practically unbearable during the opening segment of the film, but it either gets less annoying the more you hear it or she becomes more comfortable in the role as the film progresses. Simon Pegg is almost unrecognizable with a scraggly beard and a chain smoking habit. The most impressive scene in the film is a scene when Bill and Annie are alone in the diner Annie works at discussing possible ways Bill could end his life.
You see similar moments of comedic brilliance that Pegg brought to Shaun of the Dead and Spaced that made you fall in love with his work in the first place. The Bill and Annie scenes are great because Margot Robbie and Simon Pegg actually develop a palpable chemistry during Terminal that nobody else has the opportunity to over the course of the 90-minute film. These what-if scenarios play out to the side of the booth they’re sitting in as Annie names off dozens of ways to die and Bill grimaces at the thought of how much his body will be mangled in the process. Their whole encounter culminates with an intense portrayal of emotion seething with this venomous anger Pegg doesn’t usually have the chance to tap into.
Dexter Fletcher comes off as overbearing with his harsh demeanor and rough around the edges attitude. You can never tell if Vince is legitimately attempting to teach Alfred something or if he genuinely hates his guts. Alfred is easily manipulated and tries to slide by on his youthful looks. Max Irons doesn’t ever get to delve any deeper than being a second rate hitman who thinks he’s bigger than his britches. This is Mike Myers’ first major film role in nearly eight years (since Shrek Forever After). He spends the majority of the time under heavy prosthetics and makeup while portraying a gibberish spewing and greasy in appearance train station night supervisor. It’s a welcome change of pace to see him in something R-rated though.
There’s quite a bit of intrigue buried within Vaughn Stein’s directorial debut. Terminal seems to draw influences from the likes of Atomic Blonde and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. The film has the ambience of a secondary villain from John Wick getting their own feature film. But even with its eye catching camera work, Terminal lacks coherent storytelling and the thriller stumbles whenever it makes an effort to stand on serious legs to distance itself from the lighthearted bickering that hurts the film more than it adds to its entertainment value.
Even if you're a fan of Alice in Wonderland, the homage to Lewis Carroll’s classic is borderline insulting with its overuse of quoting, blatant referencing, and literal dangling of the actual book in the metaphorical face of the audience. Terminal feels like an amalgamation of a ton of different influences that refuse to mix properly. The performances are heavy at times and too light at others and typically sink into this forgotten wasteland while paper thin characteristics of the film like its flashy appearance and overuse of rabbit holes and being as mad as a hatter float to the top and run interference as if to cover up that Terminal has little to offer other than countless wardrobe changes for Margot Robbie.
Terminal is now playing in US theatres and lands on UK screens in the United Kingdom on July 6, 2018