Set in Wales, Officer Catrin (Annes Elwy) receives a personal invitation to visit the local Toll Booth at night. She finds the operator wants to have a quiet and straightforward discussion with just the two of them. From this, we gain an interesting back story, letting us know why he wants to chat with her. With no real name other than a nickname of “Toll Booth” (Michael Smiley), Toll Booth generally keeps to himself and enjoys getting straight to the point in simple conversations. While many think this man is just a lonely soul who collects pennies from passing motorists, he has a dark past that is about to catch up with him.
One day, a motorist passing through to pay a toll is shocked to find Toll Booth. Toll Booth is someone who he has been trying to locate for over twenty-nine years. The motorist in the car reports his findings to his boss, and it is evidently now only a matter of time until someone comes for the toll booth operator. There is obviously more to this toll booth operator than meets the eye, and we discover that Toll Booth also runs a racket. He has been known for conducting many deals and transactions on the side as, after all, he works at a prime spot.
Now the clock is ticking as Toll Booth braces himself and prepares for what is to come next. He begins to interact with various characters to who he gives tasks and orders. On the flip side, Officer Catrin begins to inquire within the small community for information about the mysterious man working at the Toll Booth, wondering why people are so secretive about his past. Officer Catrin also struggles to deal with her past, including losing her father, sadly killed during a hit and run a year ago.
The Toll is a thrilling crime tale. It is also a fun story consisting of dark and even comic moments. There are plenty of twists and turns, some predictable and some quite witty and unexpected. Not everything about this film will make sense at first, but the more you progress, the more rewarding the film becomes.
I felt Michael Smiley as Toll Booth was tremendous. While his speaking role is not dialogue-heavy, I found he commanded the screen quite nicely whenever he appeared and spoke. Annes Elwy also gave a good performance as Officer Catrin, and her character has moments that are touching and likeable. The film is populated with plenty of characters who all vary from each other. No one here is dull or uninteresting, and all play a critical part in the film’s story.
The film’s soundtrack is excellent, and I found it highly fitting. The music here gives the vibes we are watching something like a classic western, helping us understand that Toll Booth is a lone cowboy trying to get by. The audio track also brings moments of fun, humour and, at times, helps build tension, especially by the third act. As a story, it might seem like there is nothing overly new here, but I cannot deny how much fun I had once the film started to make more sense to me. The third act culminates in a satisfying conclusion. As the credits rolled, I could have easily rewatched this film again now I knew the ending, and I knew certain clues and details would make more sense on a second viewing.
Overall, this film delivers a solid combination of thrills and dark comedy. The leading performance from Michael Smiley brings a certain strength on-screen, and actress Annes Elwy is equally enjoyable and likeable. The Toll is certainly thrilling, wacky, twisty, and highly entertaining. It is a story that, granted, won’t make a deal of sense at first, but those who stick with it will find it enriching as certain elements come together to deliver a solid finale. The Toll (2021) is Now Available in Australian Cinemas!