The Terminal (2004)
The Terminal, a story about a man without a country trapped in an airport for an indefinite amount of time, starts out innocently enough, hits its stride in the first thirty minutes, then once it reaches its midpoint, it gradually becomes worse and worse, until the end, when I was left wondering what happened to the good promise shown early on.
Tom Hanks, everyone's favorite American everyman actor, plays Viktor Navorski, a man from a country called Krakozhia, which doesn't really exist, but for the film's purposes, it is in eastern Europe. When Navorski gets to JFK Airport in New York, he is informed that a political coup has occurred in his country while he was traveling, and now his passport is invalid. The head of security at JFK, Frank Dixon (Stanley Tucci), informs him that he can neither leave, nor enter the United States, that he is unacceptable. Viktor, with limited comprehension of English, is confused by the fast-talking Dixon, but eventually gets the message that he is stuck here in the international travel lounge until things settle down back in Krakozhia.
For Dixon's part, he'd rather let someone else worry about Navorski, and even offers to let him leave the airport, but Navorski refuses, following Dixon's early instruction that he must wait. Viktor takes up residence at Gate 67, which is in a part of the airport being renovated, and eventually picks up on the English language, and makes a few friends. These include Enrique (Diego Luna), who offers to feed Viktor in exchange for information about the woman he is infatuated with, Officer Torres (Zoe Saldana), who is the one to approve or deny access to America; Mulroy (Chi McBride), a baggage handler who runs a late-night poker game where they use unclaimed lost-and-found items instead of money; Gupta (Kumar Pallana), an Indian janitor suspicious that Navorski is a spy; and Amelia (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a flight attendant with a knack for finding hopeless men and falling hopelessly in love with them.
There isn't really much plot to speak of, and that's fine, since the whole point of the film is to observe how a man deals with being stuck indefinitely in an international airport terminal. Tom Hanks is stellar as always, employing here a pretty good accent that doesn't distract. As long as these characters were interesting and believeable, I would have had no problem with The Terminal, but director Steven Spielberg infuses it with sap and contrivances that left me shaking my head. There are a couple of ridiculous subplots involving romance that, to me, were pretty worthless and didn't belong in the film.
However, I was entertained by the film for the first half, at least. There were some very humorous moments, such as when Navorski figures out how to get himself some quick cash in a perfectly logical way. The characters, though, operated almost backwards from what happens in an ordinary film. And what I mean by that is that instead of starting out as stereotypes and gradually peeling away layers, these characters progressed towards stereotypes, so that by the end of the film, everyone is acting so irrationally that you just want to scream at the screen, "You wouldn't really do that!"
April 9, 2005