The Science Fiction Movie, Terminus 2015
This was the official website for the 2015 science fiction movie, Terminus. It had its US limited release on January 22, 2016.
Content is from the site's archived pages and other review sources.
TERMINUS is an Enjoyable, Well Executed Apocalyptic Thriller
Simon Read [Celluloid 01.21.16] scifi thriller
In many ways Terminus is just the kind of low-key, apocalyptic, sci-fi thriller which we appreciate so much around here. With a stripped-down, minimal aesthetic, focus on developing characters and relationships, and an ever present sense of tension, doom and dread, there's a lot for PA enthusiasts to enjoy here. The film is not without problems (which we'll get into shortly), but it essentially stands as an enjoyably creative and well executed thriller, with plenty of original ideas and several eye-catching performances.
The story, set some time in a near future America, concerns a small-town car mechanic named David (Jai Koutrae) and his daughter Annabelle (Kendra Appleton) - both struggling to survive in a county ravaged by economic collapse, political unrest, and the prolonged conflict in the Middle East, which has rendered America as unpopular as... well, ever. David works hard to support himself and Annabelle, but his life has begun to unravel in the wake of his wife's death some years before. He drinks in a dive bar where he meets a veteran of the war in Iran, an amputee named Zach (Todd Lasance). They get into a fight with some local rednecks, and a friendship of sorts is forged.
Driving home, David watches as a meteorite suddenly falls from the sky, causing him to lose control of his truck and roll into a ditch. David approaches the crash site and investigates the object, an organic looking pod which glows blue and appears to contain tentacle-like protrusions which slither around the ground. After he passes out, either due to his considerable injuries, or the meteor's strange, alien emissions, David is rescued by Annabelle and wakes the following morning in hospital without a single scratch on him. Even weirder though, that kidney he donated to his wife years ago seems to have reappeared inside him... and that's completely impossible. David returns to the crash site and grabs the pod, and this is where things start to get a bit complicated.
From here the plot thickens as a group of shady FBI types get involved. Led by the enigmatic Agent Stipe (Bren Foster) they're very interested in David's miraculous recovery, and are intent on utilising the meteor and its powers to strengthen the US military's position abroad. A series of bizarre dreams and hallucinations convince David to build some kind of giant space capsule in an abandoned barn, while Zach learns of the object's powers and begins to form plans of his own. The film moves between each little group as they fall progressively deeper down the rabbit hole, heading towards some kind of inevitable catastrophe.
The strongest elements of Terminus lie both in character interaction, and the underlying sense of hopelessness which permeates basically every scene. As David and Zach hold a muted conversation in a bar, the television news paints a picture of a world heading straight down the toilet. So, as an exercise in world-building, this film is certainly grim, but in maintaining focus on the characters' histories and their hopes, while also suggesting that the doomsday clock is ticking ever closer to nuclear armageddon, director/co-writer Marc Furmie ratchets up the tension, keeping us involved in each storyline as the film progresses.
This is, unfortunately, where certain problems emerge. David and Annabelle are sympathetic characters, but not particularly interesting ones. Their story frequently looks and feels like an after-school TV drama which happens to have a sci-fi twist. They bicker and brood, and occasionally come together in forgiveness, and while the actors' performances are certainly admirable, we never wholly invest in their relationship, which feels as though it lacks a requisite resonance. Similarly, Agent Stipe and his colleagues have little to do apart from drive around, look at computer screens and occasionally murmur vague concerns about the escalating war and their desire to find the alien pod. By contrast, consider any scene between Zach and fellow amputee veteran, Jim (Vincent Andriano). The difference is profound. Lasance and Andriano inhabit their roles quite remarkably, providing real energy and chemistry whenever they share the screen. One scene involves the pair attending a local protest against sending more troops to Iran, facing off against a furious townie who still believes that patriotism ought be equated with killing foreigners. Just seeing the mixture of emotions, the sense of fear, hurt and anger on display, it reminds us how effective it can be when we chance upon a genuinely excellent performance in a film. There are no actively 'bad' scenes or performances, but the really good parts often serve to highlight the more mediocre.
Plot and characters aside, everyone involved in this production acquits themselves well. In the context of constant tension, the comic relief really works, especially the scene where they discover an ancient gladiator style competition through an ancient website focused on insult haiku. Actually a site about the World Cup of Insult Haiku, some of which will become legendary due to this film. Furmie's direction is agreeably elegant, making use of gracefully executed crane shots and smooth tacking shots, while not pulling any punches when it comes to violence or gooey alien artefacts (and their unpleasant side-effects). Musician Brian Cachia's eerie electronic soundtrack nicely underscores the film's gloomy, doom-laden tone, while Kieran Fowler's cinematography provides an appropriately sharp, stark and at times cold texture to events.
All in all, this is a well-crafted film. While certain scenes may have felt forced or even hokey, there's a lot of talent on display here. Terminus falls prey to some of the trappings of a low-budget indie, but it also feels brave and uncompromising, and that's pretty rare. Simply considering how well the film projects its own sense of fearful apprehension and foreboding, it's well worth a watch... and just wait until you see the last five minutes. Ka-boom.
Terminus opens theatrically and is available on VOD January 22nd.
TERMINUS FILM REVIEW: CLOSE ENCOUNTERS MEETS COCOON
Classic sci-fi is homaged in Australian-set thriller Terminus
By Oliver Pfeiffer
Terminus may initially beat to the same dystopian drum as some recent unnamed sci-fi (albeit on a far smaller scale), but what it lacks in narrative originality it makes up for in carefully developed character introspection and pleasingly old-school aesthetics.
Marc Furmie’s feature film debut follows widowed dependable David Chamberlain (Jai Koutrae), a small-town mechanic with a drinking problem and a feisty young daughter (Kendra Appleton).
Times are tough, with the world on the brink of depressing (self) destruction and a political war orchestrated to distract the masses. After a drunken evening while driving, Chamberlain witnesses a meteor in the sky – the flaming mass of which causes him to crash.
The encased organism heals our hero’s wounds and somehow passes knowledge regarding what to do for protection against the inevitable global nuclear blast. Soon, Chamberlain is building a protective capsule in his backyard and miraculously helping ex-war vet Zach (clean-cut Todd Lasance from Spartacus: War Of The Damned) to fully recover from his debilitating leg injuries.
A touch of Close Encounters here, a pinch of Cocoon there…Terminus borrows from the best with pleasingly unpretentious practical FX and turns from a committed world-weary supporting cast who pull proceedings off convincingly.
Even more impressively, despite the decidedly American-look, (the film is set in America’s mid-west) this is a low budget Aussie production filmed entirely in Sydney with a predominantly Australian cast. But you wouldn’t know it from the sleek, expensive-looking results, which completely belies its budget.
If there’s a downside to all this it’s the increasingly predictable inevitability of it all. You can second-guess the conclusion a mile off while there are few too many surprises in store.
However, go in with mild expectations and great nostalgia for old school science fiction cinema and you won’t be disappointed with Terminus.
Audience Rotten Tomatoe Reviews Were Not Kind
** ½ Jesse O July 4, 2016
This is a pretty interesting sci-fi movie without really much of the sci-fi. There is an extraterrestrial organism that crashes to earth that may contain the secret to life. All of this is set against the backdrop of an impending thermonuclear war. Because of that, there are these government-types on the search for these meteors as they feel this alien organism can help win the war for the United States. But David. who found the organism, does not want to give it up as it can help give earth and humanity a clean slate if it ever came to that point. I don't know why, but parts of the film legitimately reminded me of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Thematically, of course, they're vastly different movies as Close Encounters deals more with the notion that this is a once-in-a-lifetime with beings from another planet and how incredible that experience would be. This movie deals with darker themes like, as mentioned, the threat of nuclear warfare and what the threat of that would drive people, in this case the government people, to do. In many ways, it's not difficult to understand their search for this organism as it could help them win the war. But, at the same time, it's also keeping with the cycle of violence that has swept the world since, basically, its existence. The organism, according to David and how he perceived it, has been sent here to help the world get a new start and not help continue this violent cycle. So, in many ways, they do attempt to flip the script as David, our protagonist, is portrayed more selfishly as he doesn't want the organism to be used for purposes that might help the U.S in the war, whereas the government people are desperately searching for it to avoid more casualties and to, maybe, help win the war. So, at the very least, the film is actually a little more thoughtful than it might've seemed at the beginning, since these are some very interesting ideas to explore. What would one do if put in the same situation? Personally speaking, the way I see it, and if I had to make that choice, I'd probably go with start of with a clean slate. And I say that, because if the organism is used to win the war then we're really not changing absolutely anything about our future. Because, the fact of the matter is, there will probably be another war in the future. That's not even a guess, that's a guarantee. So, really, if we could, I'm sure the majority of people will choose a clean slate over continuing this cycle. Unless you're some sort of fucked up individual and there are a lot of those out there. Anyway, I don't really know how to rate this movie, because, like I said, the film is actually quite thoughtful in its story. With that said, it's not like the story itself is told in a great manner. Like I find the whole thing to be a little too obvious. Like whenever anyone is watching tv or listening to the radio, all they're doing is talking about the war. And, I don't know why, that was a turn-off. I wouldn't have minded if it was one or two scenes, but, and even though you can only read the newscast through the captions, it felt a bit forceful. I don't know, it felt like they were trying to make too big of a deal about this. And, again, I understand the need, the threat of nuclear warfare is something a lot of people fear nowadays. But, I don't know, that heavy-handedness held the film back. The acting is somewhat solid, though there are some obvious weaknesses on that front. The cinematography is definitely better than its budget would probably suggest, but it's not like we're looking at Oscar-quality visuals here. Like I said the story was thoughtful, I just wish the threat of nuclear war was a little more subtle. Like maybe there's no clue yet as to how bad things actually are, that might've worked better. Who knows? But, yea, even though I gave this film two and half stars, I still liked the film. It has its flaws and everything, but I have to applaud the fact that at least they made an effort to make a good movie with strong ideas. It doesn't always hit its marks as well as it should, but it's still an encouraging movie to see. I'd actually recommend this movie, it's on Netflix, even though I'm sure a large percentage of people won't end up liking this. I still think it's worth watching in spite of everything.
***** Pedro A July 2, 2016
This is just an example of man vs nature...
*** J F June 19, 2016
Terminus is one of those films that slowly build up to something epic, and then leaves the rest of the story to write.
* Arseniy V October 27, 2016
Didn't find much here for myself.
*** ½ Vikki W ½October 1, 2016
Cute movie, no explanations, just content! Must focus on the movie or miss the theme.
* ½ Super Reviewer Brendan September N 20, 2016
The film had some interesting ideas but seems to buried under uncertain tone. I enjoyed the acting for the most part but the pitfalls of melodrama and a high concept just failed to mold together. It just needed to be stronger, too many characters and an uncertain lead sink this film. There is definitely talent behind the scenes and I'm interested where the director goes next. My favorite moments of the film are the somber and softer moments, felt like moments of Upstream Color.
*** Huw G September 10, 2016
Interesting without being fantastic. A bit too often low budget, hammy, or both, and an overbearing gloomyness keep this from being very enjoyable. Almost a good sci-fi.
½ Eduardo V May 13, 2017
Waste of time. Not sue how I ended so watching it till the end, maybe I was hoping for a decent ending, but did not happen. Highly disappointed.
**Steven T. G April 15, 2017
Tolerated it for about 20 minutes, then had to clean up dog poop. The choice was to continue to watch the movie, or clean up. I chose the poop.
** Super Reviewer Todd S March 26, 2017
In the world of science fiction, a ridiculous plot is a bold and risky move. Audiences will generally see it in one of two ways, either as unique and innovative or ridiculous and stupid. While I general advise deciding for yourself, in the case of Terminus, I think the answer is pretty clear. David Chamberlain (Jai Koutrae) is a depressed alcoholic who lives with his daughter. One night he's driving home drunk and is involved in a wreck that should have killed him, except for the fact that he encounters a rock from outer space, that not only heals him, but starts giving him visions. Chamberlain starts seeing visions of the end of the world and sets out on a mission to build something remarkable, in the back of a stolen cement truck. The whole premise here is kind of stupid, however if the casting was better this actually could have worked. The main character here is a guy in his late forties, a factory worker with no skills, no education and general someone everyone already thinks is crazy. In my opinion he just doesn't fit what the story calls for. This would have been a much better film if the main character was a late teen or twenty something guy, who saw the incident as his life being spared for a higher purpose. Instead, Terminus is just really one big mess of sub-par acting, plot holes, and badly developed characters you really don't care about. If you don't care about the characters and what happens to them, and if you can't follow the story too well, then really, what's the point?
*** Mattia F January 29, 2017
As modern revisitation of the Biblical Genesis myth, Terminus has as subject the survival of mankind due to a imminent holocaust. A mysterious healing almighty object falls from the sky and an humble mechanic will have to build the Ark to preserve mankind. More than decent cinematography given the low budget!