The title of Margot Robbie’s latest period thriller “Dreamland” teases a world ripe with possibilities. “Dreamland” follows a bank robber Allison Wells (Robbie) who goes on the run after a bank robbery gone bad. This leads her to hiding in the family farm of Eugene Evans (Finn Cole), a forbidden love affair between the two and an attempt to break away from their normal lives. Set in dustbowl America, there’s an urgency to everything that happens in the film. While it’s definitely not a typical robbery thriller, the tension holds from what remains unexpected throughout. In large part, that comes from the circumstances that put our leads together.
Our first meeting with Robbie’s character establishes that she is a tough-as-nails seducer. She’s someone that will try to charm her way out of any situation but will draw the gun if need be. As she charms Eugene, there’s a feeling of fear because you don’t know if she’s telling the truth about anything. This especially comes into play when Eugene’s stepfather, a police officer played by Travis Fimmel, starts investigating the robbery and supposedly “missing” Allison. When the film is at its best, the cat and mouse game of trying to find Allison is thoroughly entertaining. Here it truly feels exciting and tense, much like the old school gangster films that jump-started the genre. Where the film really falters is the building of the romance between our two leads.
Cole and Robbie have good chemistry with one another and as an audience we feel their growing attachment. We spend so much time in their flirtation, that by the time their romance comes it feels too little too late. It’s beneficial that we have leads that are this interesting because we’re never bored watching them. Particularly in their back and forth with the supporting players, their individual charm and charisma are infectious. I just can’t excuse the story’s odd pacing in its first half which drags the film down from its potential. It almost feels as if there are two competing films that never quite balance each other out as they should.
The story of a bank robber on the run is one filled with ripe possibilities, and when it’s about that very thing, it works. A lot of time is taken for us to get there, which muddles some of the finale’s emotional weight. What doesn’t entirely sink things is the cast playing through the more cliched contrivances of this genre. I cannot deny that even though I guessed the outcome, I was incredibly tense as the climax played out in front of me. However, there’s still no denying that to get the resolution we ended up with, it still took us too long to get there for my liking. What I will say is that thanks to this cast, we never have to suspend our disbelief as an audience.
“Dreamland” is a movie that had a lot of potential to be a spin on the classic crime and romance story. While the crime worked for me more than the romance, there’s no denying that the chemistry between our leads is effective. There’s an old-time charm to their banter that worked for me as many of the classic outlaw stories it wants to follow. I just cannot help but wish we got to the point a little faster than we did. By the time the film hits us with their hopeful gut punch, it just doesn’t land as effectively as it could. It’s an incredibly disappointing aspect since the strengths of “Dreamland” become really apparent when it’s too late.
Watch the trailer here.