Terminal is a new movie starring Margot Robbie, Simon Pegg, David Fletcher, Max Irons and Mike Myers. By any standards, this is an impressive cast list, especially if you consider that Mike Myers has been absent from in front of the cameras for about a decade or so. The movies trailer was flashy and stylish, a very good teaser, promising something interesting without giving away anything really, besides the cast list and a general vibe or attitude. But besides the trailer, there wasn’t much marketing behind this movie, but suddenly we wake up to the fact that it has been released and I am guessing that the studio was banking on the start power of the cast to do their magic and lure the audience into the theaters. To be perfectly honest, for the longest time, I did not know where to put this movie. It has a lot going for it. It also has massive flaws. And it also reminded me of something else, but I could not name it. The name was on the tip of my tongue and it drove me crazy, but I just could not name it. But more on that later.
But let us start with the negatives first, which aren’t many, in fact there is only one big issue with this film, but it is enough. And that would be the script. It has a solid first act, that sets up the characters and does the overall world building really fast, and it has a killer third act with a very satisfying ending. So you got you’re A and your Z covered. The problem lies what in-between them, the entire 2nd act, which basically is a collection of witty dialogues spinning in a circle and going nowhere. On one hand, you have the waitress Margot Robbie and a terminally ill English professor Simon Pegg talking about death in a coffee shop at the train station. On the other hand, you have David Fletcher and Max Irons, two hitmen for hire, running around town, following instructions from a certain Mr. Franklyn, and keep bumping into Margot Robbie’s character, who, we learn, is not just a waitress. Also, you have Mike Myers popping up every now and then as the train station care taker. So, there you go, two unrelated story lines, unfolding in parallel, linked only by Robbie’s character, and both of them are a drag. Because nothing really happens. Yes, the dialogue is witty. Yes, the set pieces look amazing. But there is no development for any of the characters, or for the overall story. Because there isn’t any story at all. Not until the final reveal in the 3rd act, when the script comes into focus. Basically, the entire 2nd act is a filler, something to kill time with. Like a misdirect in a magicians act, which is kind of on the nose, given how many times the “lost art of mystery” is referenced in the conversations. Let me be clear, there is no mystery here to be had, just a script that doesn’t know what to do with its run time. Now, remember that I said at the beginning that this movie kept reminding me of something but I did not know what? It took me about a week to figure it out. It reminds me of a TV series pilot. Quick world building, awesome base concept, good twist at the end, style over substance. These are all hallmarks of a good TV series pilot. And given that the average runtime of such a pilot is about 45 minutes, the script at hand has just enough material for that. But the movies runtime is of 90 minutes. So yes, this is a TV pilot stretched out to become a movie and you can feel it.
Now, about the good parts. As I mentioned before, the world building is really great. You get this noir feel to it, but the rain is replaced by neon. Also, the set pieces look gorgeous. The movie was shot in Budapest, so the filmmakers had access to some rather unique and interesting locations to do the movie, and the cinematographer, Christopher Ross, took full advantage of that. On a side note, it is interesting to notice that Ross’s body of work consist mostly of TV and shorts, which proves further my point concerning the TV pilot. He also worked on Malice In Wonderland, which would make a great companion movie to this one in a double feature, although, who would want to do that I have no idea. The casts performance is also good. I don’t know how the producers managed to get these actors to sign on to this movie, given the poor script and all, but one can tell that they did not showed up just for a paycheck. Simon Pegg and Mike Myers are having a blast and Margot Robbie finally has the opportunity to showcase what Harley Quinn really should have been in Suicide Squad. And then you have the entire 3rd act, where the twists and turns are revealed. Some of them I saw coming from a mile away but some caught me completely off guard. But all in all, the ending is a good one. It also amused me the way this movie kept borrowing from ideas from older movies. You have your Sin City like world, both in feel and aesthetics, you have a story line that mixes In Bruge with Guy Ritchie’s Revolver, another story line that channels Pulp Fiction. I would name two more movies, but that might go into spoiler territory. You take all these movie elements, put it in the same blender that the BBC uses for its TV series and movies, and you get the Terminal.
Overall, this movie has some pretty good elements which are being wasted by being combined with a misused script. Pity really. I, for one, am glad that I saw it, but most will be not.