The Terminal is a gentle film, and oftentimes hilarious. Like Secret Window was a gallery of Johnny Depp’s acting skills, The Terminal is the Tom Hanks show. This is the kind of film that you won’t believe is being released at the beginning of the summer movie season. It seems more fitting in a September or October slot, away from the summer clutter.
In the film, Hanks plays Viktor Navorski, who has just landed at JFK Airport in New York from his native homeland in Eastern Europe. When his passport does not pass at the Customs desk, he is escorted away by Frank Dixon (Tucci) and is told that while he was in the air, his country fell under military coup and the government has essentially imploded. Of course, Viktor barely understands a word of this. Due to this, the United States does not recognize his country and denies him permission to leave the International lounge at the airport. That’s right, he is not technically in the United States. How long this will last is unknown.
The core of the movie deals with how Viktor lives in the terminal, makes friends, and falls for a nutjob of a flight attendant, Amelia (Zeta-Jones). Meanwhile, the suits at the airport are doing all they can to rid themselves of him, but without actually letting him into the United States.
The Terminal is quite the departure for veteran director Steven Spielberg. Some will undoubtedly accuse him of sleepwalking through this relatively quiet drama/comedy/romance, but I think otherwise. The humor in this film (and there is a lot of it) all requires exact timing and shots, and Spielberg steps up to the plate. He has a clear understanding of the screenplay, and utilizes all of the comedic moments in it.
And comedic moments there are. Many will be pleasantly surprised by how funny and heartfelt this film is. It also wisely strays from the likes of cornball romance. Whether the romance works, however, will differ from viewer to viewer. I had some problems with it, as Amelia is hardly a really likable person. As us guys say, “she’s a head case.”
I have a few other minor complaints, mainly about the climax of the film, which comes dangerously close to derailing. I won’t give away too much, but there will definitely be a few moments that will have you rolling your eyes. Little harm is done, however.
Tom Hanks turns in another fantastic performance, one that we could be seeing clips of next March at the Academy Awards. He completely transforms into Viktor, and by the film’s halfway point you’ll forget completely that it is Tom Hanks. His accent is very fun, and can be likened to Brad Pitt’s indiscernible mumblings in Snatch. That is until Viktor takes it upon himself to learn some English.
The supporting cast is quite good, with Chi McBride turning in some great lines and Stanley Tucci playing up the man of power big time. His eagerness to get Viktor out of the terminal is hilarious.
The Terminal is very lighthearted, but also contains a very strong message about waiting for what you want. Hanks is excellent and I applaud Spielberg for delving into some new territory. This is the date movie of the summer.
Length: 121 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for brief language and drug references.
Theatrical Release: June 18, 2004
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by: Sacha Gervasi & Jeff Nathanson. Based upon the story by Sacha Gervasi & Andrew Niccol.
Cast: Tom Hanks, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Stanley Tucci, Chi McBride, Diego Luna, Barry Shabaka Henley