2000's, Barry Shabaka Henry, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Chi McBride, Comedy, Diego Luna, Drama, Kumar Pallana, Stanley Tucci, Steven Spielberg, The Terminal, Tom Hanks, Zoë Saldaña
A slightly whimsical comedy drama from Steven Spielberg about a man rendered without a country and stuck in JFK Airport, The Terminal benefits from a touching and terrific lead performance courtesy of Tom Hanks . It’s not of the director’s major works or up there as a masterpiece in his filmography, but it’s a quite lovely movie of hope, patience and belief that is in many moments rather affecting to watch.
Viktor Navorski(Tom Hanks) is from the Eastern European country of Krakozhia he arrives in JFK airport. The only hitch in his plans to visit New York is that while he was in the air, a military coup occurred in his country and the government was overthrown . With the U.S not recognising the new government and his passport taken, he is without a country and not permitted to step foot outside of the airport. Not knowing much English, Viktor initially panics about what he’s going to do about his circumstances. He begins sleeping and living for lack of a better word in one of the terminals. Over time, Viktor begins to show immense aptitude in adapt to this strange situation by learning English, finding inventive ways to have food and have some semblance of goodness in what it a truly fish out of water experience. He becomes friends with various airport staff, such as food deliverer Enrique(Diego Luna), cleaner Gupta(Kumar Pallana) and cargo handler Mulroy(Chi McBride) . Spending time with them, he forms good ties and he helps Enrique grow more confident in his attempts to woo the tough but beautiful Immigration Officer Torres( Zoë Saldaña ). He also comes up against an increasingly angry and frustrated Acting Field Commissioner Frank Dixon(Stanley Tucci), who wants to be someone else’s problem and feels that his chance of a promotion is going up in smoke because of Viktor. Dixon is watched by his second in command Thurman(Barry Shabaka Henry), who comes to like Viktor and is often quietly at odds with his superior. There’s maybe even a chance at love for Viktor with conflicted air hostess Amelia Warren(Catherine Zeta-Jones) .Over the months of time he spends living in the airport , Viktor changes the lives of those around him while trying to make sense of what’s going on and wondering if he’ll ever return to his home country or set foot in New York.
Steven Spielberg shoots The Terminal through with a hope and energy to it. The airport transforms from what seems like a confusing place and Spielberg beautifully gets across the difference . It can be said that it slips into sentimentality a little too often, but the heartfelt nature and occasional note of bittersweet experience is something that the veteran filmmaker knows how to do. Both the comedy ( of which there is quite a bit of thanks to the work of Tom Hanks and cast)and the drama hit good spots throughout . The Terminal is at once a big scale movie, largely due to the tremendous detail and scope of its setting, and also rather intimate as it takes place largely in one location. The gliding camerawork and long takes are beautifully done and the shimmering work of cinematographer Janusz Kamiński brings out the varying emotions through shadows, reflective surfaces and glass. Plus I can’t review the film without mentioning the production design, which is second to none in crafting this setting. All the production design deserves credit for the stellar work hereWhat The Terminal might have benefited from to put it higher up in terms of quality is some editing. I feel that The Terminal does overstay it’s welcome because it runs too long for it’s own good. Trimming down in some parts would have certainly improved the film, but it’s still an uplifting tale that is difficult to resist. If you can suspend disbelief in parts, like how quickly Viktor picks up English and somehow manages, you can enjoy The Terminal and what it has to offer. A sprightly score by Spielberg regular and maestro John Williams fizzes away throughout. Williams brings a bustling yet heartfelt core to the events both comedic and dramatic for us with what I think is a rather underrated score in his long and illustrious career. Whenever Spielberg and Williams collaborate, it’s often magical and The Terminal is no exception.
Tom Hanks provides a lot of the heart and depth to The Terminal and is one of the best parts of this movie . Combining a natural bemusement with a hidden sense of resourcefulness(plus a very different voice than you think of for Hanks), he is also adept at all the comedy too; capturing the awkward mannerisms of a man completely in an extreme fish out of water scenario. Hanks makes the audience immediately sympathetic to the Everyman character who we see is not as bumbling as people think in the beginning. The blending of heart and comic timing is a winning combination that makes this a fine performance from Tom Hanks. Although not in the most well written or defined part, Catherine Zeta-Jones brings warmth and a quiet sense of uncertainty as a woman caught in a situation she seems destined to repeat. Through her interactions and developing feelings for Viktor, Zeta-Jones provides a vulnerable and lovely presence alongside Hanks . Though I must say as good as she is in the part, I feel the role needed to provide more for her as the character is rather patchy in terms of writing. Catherine Zeta-Jones makes the part watchable but I think more could have been done with her character in the long run. it would have been nice to see Zeta-Jones really have a part to sink her teeth into. Maybe bits of the romance between the two leads don’t add up or feel like they could have been explored better. But at least there’s a tentative chemistry between both stars that’s rather lovely to see as is their connection over the course of the picture. Stanley Tucci is having a ball as the who becomes gradually more frustrated with Viktor who he sees as a major thorn in his side. His character is working hard and doing his job. This has ultimately lead to him not realising that his humanity and sympathy has been skewered because of his adherence to rules. As antagonistic as Dixon is in parts , Tucci never lets him descend into full ok villainy. He instead lets us see a man who is too good at his job and irritable if his authority feels threatened . An entertaining supporting cast rounds out the characters, who become largely something akin to a family unit. Barry Shabaka Henry as second in command provides a quiet sense of comedy as he reacts to his boss with bewilderment and eye rolling .Kumar Pallana provides the comic relief as the jokey janitor amusing himself with the hapless events of the airport, while impressive performances by Diego Luna and Zoë Saldaña as lovesick food deliverer and brusque immigration officer show the star quality both have. Chi McBride rounds out the main group of Viktor’s friends as the wisecracking baggage handler.
A touching comedy drama with both an underlying message of humanity and occasionally pangs of melancholy, The Terminal provides a heartwarming movie experience. Enlivened by colourful characters, directing and gorgeous visuals, The Terminal might be minor Spielberg, but it’s still rather effective and moving.