Beneath Terminal‘s very pretty neo-noir exterior, colourfully drenched in neon and sulphur, lies a palpably empty world populated by a handful of shallow characters. Margot Robbie manages to bring vibrant energy to Annie, which is more than the rest of the cast can achieve — Simon Pegg in particular seeming miscast. The perpetual twilight (the film almost demands to be watched late at night) and modern noir setting bring to mind the atmospheric Franklyn, but without its purposive depth. The lack of attempt at world building may be explained by the dreamlike approach to storytelling, repeatedly quoting from Alice in Wonderland as if to suggest that the viewer should accept Terminal as a similar series of scenes that operate by their own internal logic. Perhaps but, as I learned as a child, a dream is only interesting to the dreamer — to everyone else it is an interminable bore.
“With the world so set on tearing itself apart, it don’t seem like such a bad thing to me to want to put a little bit of it back together.”
The story of Desmond Doss, a pacifist who enlisted in the US army as a medic during World War II, ironically brings with it some of the goriest depictions of battle injuries to date. The film wisely lingers on Desmond’s life before the war for long enough that we understand both his sense of morality and his acceptance that others see him as unusual. Andrew Garfield deserves praise not for the awkward charm he displays, but the troubled conviction beneath it. We see the harshness of training through his eyes, although it is clear the senior officers’ hostility is borne of confusion and protectiveness over the other men in their charge. Once his unit ships out, the initial assault on Hacksaw Ridge is powerfully filmed but less personal and less compelling. That changes dramatically in the aftermath as we see Doss’ heroic bravery, scouring the battlefield under artillery fire and evading enemy patrols, for which he became the first man to earn a US Medal of Honor without firing a shot.