A city of glamour and sleaze, of glowing neon atop buildings stained black by industrial smoke, at the dying heart of it is the terminal above the underground labyrinth of railway lines, a dying man standing on the deserted platform waiting for the last train to roll in and take him away, an intrusive and unhelpful porter assailing him with unwanted advice before he exits and is accosted by inept muggers.
Elsewhere, a woman breathes cigarette smoke as she bargains with her confessor and two frustrated hit men snap at each other as they wait to hear from their employer with details of the job, all of them tied together by their visits to the all night diner next to the terminal, behind the counter the immaculate blonde waitress who responds to politeness rather than threats.
Serving as a vehicle for The Suicide Squad’s Margot Robbie who stars as Annie, a woman of many talents beyond serving tea and sticky buns, her customers never sure whether she is flirting with them or toying with them, Terminal was originally released in 2018 and now arrives on the Arrow streaming platform, a neo-noir thriller written and directed by Vaughn Stein and listing Robbie among the many producers of the project.
The plot a warren of loops and dead ends, at the centre is the mysterious and anonymous Mister Franklyn who observes deeds and misdeeds from his bank of television monitors, leaving clues for his agents, experienced but jaded gunman Vince (Dexter Fletcher) and his younger associate Alfred (Max Irons) whom he despises, annoyingly dumb and coasting along on looks and luck in the same way the film substitutes quirkiness for depth.
More apparent is Annie in her various guises, the waitress who offers suicide suggestions to depressed English teacher Bill (Simon Pegg) while he corrects her grammar but also serving as Mister Franklyn’s in-person contact and doubling as Bonnie, main attraction at nightclub La Lapine Blanche where she leads Vince and Alfred down the rabbit hole even as they quote The Walrus and the Carpenter while missing the lesson of Lewis Carroll’s absurd poem.
Recalling the visuals of Dark City the grand spaces of Terminal are vast but empty, a surreal space where the only inhabitants are players in the game, but the style is sharper than the script which spends as long explaining itself as it did stacking the pack of cards, laying too much weight on a reveal that might have been more surprising had an ancillary character been played with subtlety and shot with discretion rather than egregiously inserting his way into scenes with the persistent conspicuous cries of “no, don’t look at me, I’m not Mike Myers in a fat suit.”
Terminal is streaming on Arrow now