The Terminal is a sweet and unassuming fable that starts
slow but steadily grows into a warmhearted romantic comedy, thanks
in large part to the affecting acting of Tom Hanks, Catherine Zeta-Jones
and a group of talented character actors. Hanks plays Victor Navorski,
a traveler from the imaginary Eastern European country of Krakozhia,
who lands at JFK just in time to see on airport TVs, to his horror,
that a revolution has erupted back home. By the time he hands his
passport to the Homeland Security agent at Customs, the military
coup has dissolved his country and his passport is therefore invalidated.
Not to worry, the officials tell him, we’ll have this cleared
up in a twinkle. Anyone who has spent a night stuck in an airport,
say, O’Hare on the night of The Great Blizzard, immediately
thinks hah! and Kafka! and rightly so, for soon Victor finds himself
in a maddening bureaucratic limbo, unable to go forward or backward
. The airport officials cannot figure out what to do with him, so
he is banished for days, weeks and eventually months to the International
Lounge – a no man’s land for passengers without a country.
Tucci plays Frank Dixon, the airport security underling who sees
Victor’s dilemma and ultimately his very presence as a threat
to a promotion he covets. Tucci’s role could have used more
psychological complexity -- think Kane and his Rosebud – to
soften the harsh edge of his performance, out of a place in a romantic
comedy. The resourceful Victor soon learns to survive without Dixon’s
help, though. He collects carts to earn money for food, shaves in
the men’s room like so many other travelers, practices English
from tour books, and builds a nest in a vacant corner of a storeroom.
Eventually he stands up to Dixon and wins the admiration of the
airport workers and entre´ into their loose family of baggage
handlers, burger slingers, and customs agents. Diego Luna (Y
Tu Mama Tambien), Chi McBride (Boston Public) and
especially 82-year-old Indian actor Shabaka Henley delight as his
circle of close friends and supporters.
he sets up residence, Victor meets flight attendant Zeta-Jones,
who is as beautiful as she is troubled by a lethal attraction to
faithless men, the current one keeping her on a string that stretches
pretty thin at times across the time zones and hotel rooms that
make up their life together.
and his script writers, Sacha Gervasi and Jeff Nathanson, keep us
guessing to the end about whether Victor’s new love affair
will work out or not and, especially, why Victor came to New York
in the first place. Their writing talents prove equal to the director’s
technical finesse and place this film in a firm number two spot
below my favorite Spielberg film, Empire of the Sun, written
by the great Tom Stoppard.
is loosely based on a real incident, the story of an Iranian national
who was marooned in a Paris airport for many months after the fall
of the Shah. Some have likened the film to those of Frank Capra,
and Victor is certainly dignified, determined and generous enough
to fill the shoes of any Capraesque hero. For me, though, the wearying
repetition of off color dialogue, interjected no doubt to ward off
the dreaded G rating, dulled a bit of that glow.
the end, though, minor quibbles all. John Williams’ lovely
musical score, Janusz Kaminski’s warm cinematography, and
the rich performances all add to Spielberg’s paean to the
everyday heroes who still walk among us whether in real life or
the artificial micro-world of the airport terminal.
Copyright Web del Sol, 2004