The Terminal
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Steven Spielberg
scr Sacha Gervasi, Jeff Nathanson
with Tom Hanks, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Stanley Tucci, Chi McBride, Diego Luna, Barry Shabaka Henley, Kumar Pallana, Zoe Saldana, Eddie Jones, Michael Nouri, Jude Ciccolella, Valera Nikolaev
release US 18.Jun.04, UK 3.Sep.04
04/US 2h08

Circle of friends: Luna, Hanks, Pallana and McBride

hanks zetajones tucci
Terminal Support Shadows: Buy a Poster
Spielberg slips back into saccharine mode for this heartwarming tale of duty and compassion. With even a whiff of grit it could have been a small wonder, but it's so sweet that it actually makes you feel queasy. But at least it has a very solid subtext.

While Viktor Navorski (Hanks) is en route to New York, there's a military coup back home in the (fictional) post-Soviet Krakozhia. His passport is no longer valid, so he's trapped in the terminal's international zone until he has a nationality. Over the months he befriends the airport workers (McBride, Luna, Henley, Pallana, Saldana) with his good-natured friendliness and his willingness to work for a living. And he sparks a gentle romance with a love-worn stewardess (Zeta-Jones). But the fastidious head of security (Tucci) isn't quite so happy about having a wild card in the system.

The idea is exceptionally clever, especially as it examines American society in a confined microcosm where the privileged security/immigration/airline staff exist on a different plane than the worker-bee immigrants, all while consumerism rages around them (the extremely authentic terminal is a giant shopping mall). The script is full of astute observations in this sense, combined with how Viktor is treated--narrow-minded, insular Americans yabber endlessly in English to his uncomprehending face. The lack of compassion is remarkable ... until he earns it! And this is a shocking truth about American culture that even people who love this film will be reluctant to admit.

And technically it's flawless--gorgeously photographed and inventively directed, although John Williams' lush score is far too weepy. The acting is excellent, adding intriguing layers to each character's back-story and little lesson. Tucci even does well in his thankless job as the illogically vindictive villain. But it's far too long, dragging out the three main plot threads (Viktor's big quest, the romantic resolution, the villain's comeuppance), while rushing through subplots that leave us wanting more (most notably Luna and Zaldana's truncated love story). And as it progresses, it just gets so cute and sweet that any insightful observations will be lost to real-world audiences amid the flood of schmaltz.

cert 12 themes, language, innuendo 16.Jul.04

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... The Terminal Laurie T, Minneapolis: 4/5 "What can I say - Tom Hanks shines in his portrayal of a man without a country, stuck in airport. When I saw the previews, I wondered why he stayed at the airport, and did not just 'disappear' in the general population of New York - a big cit, where I am certain there are many 'invisible' people. The reason is explained, and while this may be a stretch to happen in real life, with all the airport security, homeland security, etc, it seems plausible. But it is probably better to just enjoy the show than question the reality bit. We did like it. Catherine Zeta-Jones plays an interesting supporting role - a stewardess who has a loser married boyfriend. And the offbeat friends he makes who work at the airport. All in all an enjoyable film and Tom Hanks does an awesome job!" (5.Jul.04)
2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall