Margot Robbie will likely become, if she’s not already, one of the biggest actresses in the world. Her natural charisma, versatile acting skills, daring confidence and radiant screen presence, along with her stunning good looks, make her a magnetizing actress. The young Australian actress dazzles the screen every second she appears on it; there are but a few working actors who truly captivate you as well as Robbie does. It’s a shame, then, that —minus a few noteworthy exceptions — the rising talent hasn’t been involved in too many projects that live up to her continuously impressive work.
With the exception of Martin Scorsese’s fantastic The Wolf of Wall Street and last year’s uneven-but-still-engaging awards-friendly biopic I, Tonya, Robbie’s filmography doesn’t shine as bright as she does. As great as Robbie was in Suicide Squad, where she was easily the best part of the film as Harley Quinn, that blockbuster was an absolute mess. Focus was quickly forgotten and The Legend of Tarzan was a bore. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Z for Zachariah and Goodbye, Christopher Robin all ranged from good to pretty good, but the audience turnout was low for each and particularly non-existant for one or two. She is a firecracker constantly waiting to spark. Unfortunately, despite her best efforts, Terminal doesn’t make a good impression, despite her commanding presence.
In the colorful, visually alluring, if emotionally distant, new film noir/dark comedy, Robbie plays Annie, a collection of different femme fatale personalities and male screenwriter fantasies rolled up into one not-entirely-well-defined character. She is a waitress and wannabe hit women. She is connected to a rotating assortment of different supporting characters, which include Vince (Dexter Fletcher), a loud, cocky hitman with an assistant-of-sorts, Alfred (Max Irons), who is quickly smitten by Annie, Bill (Simon Pegg), a terminally ill English teacher who winds up waxing philosophy with Annie in the empty diner where she sometimes works, and Clinton (Mike Myers), a bizarre terminal station janitor who has more going on than it first appears. These different characters are mostly around to service Annie, who is the real star here. And Terminal doesn’t try to pretend otherwise. These characters aren’t the focus; Annie is.
With its snappy dialogue and stylish flairs given more attention than its pastiche story, it’s apparent Terminal isn’t trying to aim high. Mostly, it’s a rowdy style exercise with a variety of unusual suspects. It makes a point to say as much, in a sorta meta moment of self-awareness sprinkled into a movie that jumps between winking humor and heightened straightness. That’s fine. It can be fun in the right terms. There are a couple moments of “naughty” giddiness to be enjoyed in this serviceable, familiar affair. But it’s not long before Terminal‘s style becomes routine to your eyes and the dialogue reveals itself to be not as clever as writer/director Vaughn Stein, in his debut, thinks.
Sometimes, style is enough to carry a film. That’s not the case this time around, notably with its story beats bouncing between trite and silly. Then it comes time for its big twist, followed by another big twist, then another. The movie’s third act is so twisted and wild that you almost want to give it credit for going as bonkers as it does. But these twists don’t exactly feel earned. And without getting into specifics, some feel exploitative too. That said, it’s hard to know what Margot Robbie saw this movie that felt worthy of her time, both as a producer and as the lead actress. But it’s certainly a poppy role for the rising actress, and it’s more proof that Robbie is set to do wonders on the big screen.
Robbie’s bright, beaming role is a marvelous presence. Every second she’s on screen is showcasing that she has what it takes to become an A-lister of wondrous potential. Beyond her enjoyable work, however, the supporting cast does well in their limited roles. Pegg does bring both good gravitas and levity, in equal measure, to his bearded role. There’s more life in the character’s eyes thanks to his appearance, and it’s a good use of his specific talents. Dexter Fletcher also seems to be having fun here too.
Then there’s Mike Myers, starring in his first movie since 2010’s Shrek Forever After, and making his first live-action appearance since his extended cameo in Inglorious Basterds in 2009. It’s a welcomed return, and there’s a twinkle in his eye when it comes to performing in front of the camera again. The veteran comedian enjoys the spotlight and, for what it’s worth, I believe his return to the cinema is earned. That said, when Myers first appears on-screen under heavy pancaked make-up and a goofy accent, it will be easy for some viewers to see it as more of the same from the actor. But a twist towards the last act actually makes good strides to put his usual quirks on their head, and it’s ultimately an interesting departure from his usual schtick. The last 5 minutes are worth finding on YouTube. They’re bonkers, bizarre and something unique for Myers.
There will likely come a time when Robbie is easily comparable to Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore, and a few of these early clunker films will simply be stepping stones in her long and extensive career. That said, despite Margot Robbie’s lively screen presence, Terminal is mostly dead on arrival and no amount of style can fix that.