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There is simply no doubt that Steven Spielberg is one of the best directors Hollywood has had so far. There is also no room for negotiation when it comes to Tom Hanks’ acting credibility, and Catherine Zeta-Jones’ oozing charm. Together, the trio are capable of creating a sensation on the big screen, and with The Terminal, they almost do. It could be better, in terms of a faster pace, a bit more humor, sprinkling a bit more romance, and it would then have been good enough to be considered a classic. It falls short, but nonetheless, delivers.
An ode to valour, to surviving all odds and yet not losing one’s cool, The Terminal spins an unusual yarn depicting the heroics of a hapless traveller. Film director, Spielberg, perhaps deserves kudos for the film reportedly based on M.K. Nasseri’s 17 year stay at France’s Charles de Gaulle airport.
The story is both touching and inspiring. Viktor Navorski [Tom Hanks] lands at United States’ John F. Kennedy International Airport, all agog to complete an unfinished task of his late father only to be refused entry by the US Custom Officer, Frank Dixon [Stanley Tucci].
The reason for denial of access to the country of dreams? Viktor learns that because of the outbreak of civil war in his native Krakozhia, his country is no longer considered a sovereign nation by the US; and as such his passport has become suddenly invalid and he can neither go inland nor back home.
It is a limbo situation for him and to make matters worse, Viktor’s language acts as yet another insurmountable barrier: Viktor cannot make himself understood nor can he grasp what the haughty airport official tells him. Sandwiched thus in between the devil and the deep sea, Viktor parks himself at the Airport, much to the annoyance of Dixon, hobnobs with airport employees, helps them and manages to survive. The employees also help him, particularly one Mr Gupta from India.
The film unfortunately only flashes glimpses of a love interest between Amelia [Catherine Zeta-Jones], a flight attendant and Viktor. Viktor even shares an innocent kiss with her as Amelia learns that the reason behind his visit is merely to fulfil a promise made to his late father who was a jazz enthusiast. She also comes to know the contents of Planters can in Viktor’s possession: a copy of a photograph ‘The Great Day in Harlem’. His father had vowed to get the snapshot signed by all pictured in it. However he could not get one autograph that of Saxophonist Benny Golson which Viktor must get now. Funnily enough this Planter’s can, jealously guarded by Viktor, is a source of constant worry to Dixon.
The Terminal, set in a near full size replica built on a former hangar, is worth watching for its sweetness despite Hanks’ overzealous attempt at the accent. Amelia’s role is short but has a huge impact on Viktor’s life and the movie script.
The human drama that the film unfolds is good for short time relaxation but the film doesn’t appear to have entertainment value in the usual Hollywood sense. It touches you in the moment, but doesn’t stay with you.