Steven Spielberg rarely makes a bad movie. Even his lesser efforts are usually worthwhile. Such is the case with The Terminal.
It’s quite a departure for Spielberg who’s never really made a romantic comedy before. In reality The Terminal isn’t a romcom in the traditional sense, but it doesn’t easily fit inside any genre.
The film starts when Viktor Navorski (Tom Hanks), a traveler from the fictional Krakozhia is trapped in the international lounge of New York City’s JFK airport. Frank Dixon (Stanley Tucci), acting head of the terminal informs Viktor that his government was overthrown and as such cannot enter the USA because his documents don’t have legality.
Viktor is literally a man without a country and has to live at an abandoned gate near the end of the airport. Days turn to weeks and soon months fly by as Viktor waits and survives.
Viktor makes friends with baggage handler Joe Mulroy (Chi McBride), food service guy Enrique Cruz (Diego Luna) and janitor Gupta Rajan (Kumar Pallana). He’s soon trying to woo Amelia Warren (Zeta-Jones), a ditzy but sweet flight attendant. It’s a courtship done in small doses as she’s either trying to make a flight – or going to see her on again, off again flame.
Dixon comes to view Viktor as more than a nuisance in the film’s second half which isn’t terribly satisfying. He doesn’t have a good enough reason to become the villain, and thus the tension in the film is a bit hollow.
Nonetheless, the film is well acted all the way around. Hanks, especially has rarely been better. Production Designer Alex McDowell’s set is amazing. How it missed an Oscar nom is beyond me. The terminal IS a character in the film. The other technical elements are superb as one expects with a Spielberg film.
Like many of Spielberg’s films, at the end of the day it’s a story about fathers and sons. Is it a bit too sugary? Yes, but so we re many of Frank Capra’s films. It’s a fine line to walk and for the most part it succeeds.