Review: Terminal‘s Noir Take on Alice in Wonderland Tropes Won’t Be Everyone’s Cup of Tea

3.5 out of 5 stars
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It’s exciting when a film has a strong and unique vision, both visually and with regard to story. Terminal, written and directed by first-time feature director, Vaughn Stein, and starring Margot Robbie, is one such film. However, when a film is so idiosyncratic, stylized, and unique, the filmmaker is taking a chance that the audience will be into exactly those things, which isn’t always the case.

Terminal is a noir and dark fairy tale-inspired thriller that centers around a pair of hit men, a shady-as-hell waitress, and an English teacher looking to die. The film also stars Mike Meyers in his first film in seven years.

The hit men, Alfred and Vince (Max Irons, Dexter Fletcher), receive a contract from the mysterious Mr. Franklyn, which they’re very excited to cash in on. However, things get complicated when Alfred falls for Annie (Robbie) an eccentric waitress at the End of the Line Cafe, located in a huge train terminal in an unnamed city. Meanwhile, an English teacher with a terminal illness (Pegg) ends up at the same cafe and strikes up a weird friendship with Annie as she helps him think of ways to kill himself and leave life on his own terms.

Eventually, the storylines come together in a truly unexpected way. This is one of those movies that I can’t even talk much about because telling you exactly what I like about it would involve me going into spoiler territory. What I can say is this: when I first agreed to review and screen this movie, the impression I’d gotten from the enigmatic trailer is that this was a typical “dude crime thriller” with a “token hot chick.”

It is not that at all. I can’t stress this enough.

Terminal might not be everyone’s cup of tea. The look of the film, as well as the performances, are highly stylized, really leaning into both noir and dark fairy tales like Alice in Wonderland (not the Disney version!) in a way that sometimes hits you over the head. However, if you like “weird” as I do, you’ll relish in the fact that this movie is not only bonkers, but it knows it’s bonkers. Everyone knows what movie they’re in, and they all look like they’re having a blast.

And as I said, it’s not the movie I thought I was signing up for, in the best way. And just when I thought I had the “whodunnit” of it all figured out, the film shifts and you see that it’s really something else entirely. Margot Robbie gives an awesome performance, and we get to see both Pegg and Myers in the type of roles that we wouldn’t ordinarily see them in.

As Pegg mentioned in my interview with him, this is a film that definitely benefits from multiple viewings, with each viewing revealing more and more about the world of the story. If that’s your jam, then Terminal is for you.

Terminal is in theaters and available on Digital HD and VOD TODAY.

(image: RLJE Films)

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Image of Teresa Jusino
Teresa Jusino
Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former TMS assistant editor from 2015-18. Now, she's back as a contributing writer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.