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The Terminal /

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Tom Hanks, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Chi McBride, Stanley Tucci, Diego Luna

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Produced by: Steven Spielberg, Walter F. Parkes, Laurie MacDonald
Written by:
Jeff Nathanson, Sacha Gervasi
DreamWorks Pictures


Tom Hanks in DreamWorks' The Terminal

Stanley Tucci in DreamWorks' The Terminal
Catherine Zeta-Jones , Kumar Pallana and Tom Hanks in DreamWorks' The Terminal

     Hell is more likely to freeze over than Steven Spielberg is to make a bad movie. His career has hit a few bumps in the road—down its long path of success—but I doubt he will ever make any picture containing distasteful material. The Terminal doesn’t break new ground for Spielberg, but it is entertaining and funny. These are two characteristics that are becoming seldom finds in present-day Hollywood. In each scene of the flick, the audience will be able to simply devour his work; watching any movie crafted by one of cinema’s greats is always a delight. Much like in his 2002 effort, Catch Me If You Can, he brings an omnipresent interest to this 128 minute film, keeping his viewers interested for the somewhat lengthy running time, considering its content. If there is anything Spielberg can’t do masterfully, I think he would’ve proven such, by now. Once he finishes making the musical he’s expressed his interest in, he will have conquered every genre of film, which will serve as quite an accomplishment.

     Tom Hanks, who often partners with Spielberg, is the exact opposite. Whatever the tone of any movie he stars in, it has to be a study of one man’s methods of adapting to a given surrounding. He did it in Forrest Gump, overcoming a mental disability and molding life to fit his character. It happened again in Cast Away, with the classic “man versus nature” battle, as he was stranded on an island with only a football to keep him company. The cycle repeated itself when he played G.H. Dorr in the Coen Brothers’ comedy, The Ladykillers, where he had to accustom himself to working around his sweet, old lessor of a lady, as he led a team of casino-robbers in her basement. It’s no surprise that he does the same thing in The Terminal, in which he plays Viktor Navorski, an immigrant traveling to the United States from his homeland via airplane. The good news is that Hanks has become stunningly natural at playing this type of role and fits the bill for Mr. Navorski just perfectly. And, thankfully, there is no bad news to accompany this fortune.

     When flying into the New York airport, Viktor has some problems. As he was soaring high in the sky, his native country of Krakozia was overthrown by a large group of rebels. Because of this, his travel-visa became invalid, and he is also now no longer considered a citizen of his homeland. With this, airport security is faced with a puzzling question. If he’s not allowed into the United States and he can’t fly back to Krakozia, where can he go? Because there isn’t really a predetermined answer to the problem, it is decided that Viktor will have to live in the airport’s terminal. He is given a fifteen-minute, international calling card; some gift certificates to some of the airport’s shops; and a ten dollar budget for each one of his meals. The rest is up to Viktor; he is let loose to roam about the vicinity as he pleases. However, the airport supervisors did this in thinking that he’d try to escape within the first few days and they could ship him off to jail or an asylum. Then, he’d no longer be their responsibility. Instead, Viktor abides by the rules and they, essentially, can’t figure out what to do with him.

     Hanks portrays Viktor sympathetically, always allowing the audience’s emotions to feel comparable to his, during any given situation. One might assume him to be working with a one-note role in a hokey manner, but his performance proves everything but this. The story and plot-elements of The Terminal could be taken as elementary, regardless of the director’s swift, brisk attention to detail. But no matter how hollow anyone may predict the film’s core to be, watching the multidimensional execution of it will prove that they have been mistaken. A smorgasbord of feeling is contained in its central theme—romance, fear, happiness, anxiety, elation—all of the various aspects of poignancy are there. In order to experience them, though, one must be open to the form in which they are presented. Luckily, the exterior goofiness of The Terminal isn’t very hard to accept when Spielberg is the one force-feeding it to you.

     Spielberg built an entire terminal for the purpose of the movie (the stores advertised in it probably covered for most of the construction expenses). There were few “sets” used in the shooting of The Terminal; most everything in it is, indeed, the real deal. The characters prove to be just this by the end of it, too, fitfully proving their worthiness in the minds of the audience. We’re most easily won over when comedy is instituted; some of the scenes featuring the various employees of the airport, who Viktor meets during his nearly year-long stay, are particularly hysterical to watch. It is tougher to enjoy the scenes which include Catherine Zeta Jones’ Amelia, but even they eventually become absorbing. Zeta Jones is certainly terrific, but her small affair with Viktor turns into a bit of a mindless subplot, come time for the picture’s conclusion. It may not measure up with any of Spielberg’s previous classics, but when all is said and done, moviegoers across the nation won’t be able to do much better than they will do, buying a ticket heading for The Terminal.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews (6.18.2004)

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