Reviewed by: Brett Willis
Better than Average
Adults and Teens
2 hr. 8 min.
Year of Release:
Producer’s synopsis: “Viktor Navorski (Tom Hanks) is a visitor to New York from Eastern Europe, whose homeland erupts in a fiery coup while he is in the air en route to America. Stranded at Kennedy Airport with a passport from nowhere, he is unauthorized to actually enter the United States and must improvise his days and nights in the terminal’s international transit lounge until the war at home is over.
Steven Spielberg has a unique touch, regardless what kind of film he makes. And when he’s directing Tom Hanks, good things tend to happen. “The Terminal” is primarily a character study with a number of interesting people. More geared toward adults and mature teens, but relatively clean in content.
Viktor Navorski (Hanks) is a tourist from Krakozhia, visiting New York City. But while he was in the air, his country became embroiled in a civil war; and his passport isn’t valid until the conflict is resolved and the United States recognizes the new government. He can’t go home, and he can’t leave the airport. He’s trapped in the International Flight holding area at JFK. He speaks little English, and suffers setbacks and indignities.
The head of security, Frank Dixon (Stanley Tucci) wants to get rid of Viktor, but his hands are tied. Some airport employees are at first rude to or suspicious of Viktor, but eventually he wins many friends. Main characters include security assistant Ray Thurman (Barry Shebaka Henly) custodian Gupta (Kamar Pallana), baggage handler Joe Mulroy (Chi McBride), general gofer Enrique Cruz (Diego Luna), and customs official Dolores Torres (Zöe Saldana) whom Cruz has a crush on. And of course Viktor’s eventual love interest, flight attendant Amelia Warren (Catherine Zeta-Jones). Each character is slowly developed, and we come to care about them as we learn their backstories.
Dixon is the primary villain. He’s good at spotting and arresting drug smugglers and other unsavory characters, and in his dealings with Viktor he’s for the most part just doing his job. However, although he’ll never cheat the rules in Viktor’s favor, he IS willing to try to coax Viktor into breaking the rules, so Dixon can get rid of him and make him someone else’s problem. Eventually though, we see that he, like everyone else, has both a good and a bad side. Just takes a little digging sometimes.
Amelia is a tragic character, involved with a married man as one of a series of self-destructive relationships. She’s aware of her own character flaws, but unable to fix them. She warms up to Viktor’s innocence, but even his influence can only do so much. (Of course, what she really needs is Jesus. Other than seeing Viktor cross himself before eating, there’s no reference to faith in the film, either positive or negative.)
The violence is sparse. There’s some TV footage of the revolution in Viktor’s homeland, but nothing explicit. Some confrontations, as airport security forces arrest and detain people. At one point, Dixon slams Viktor into a copy machine. No one is killed or seriously injured in the film.
There are about 25 instances of cursing, profanity and vulgarity, including three occurrences of s*. In addition to that, while Viktor is playing matchmaker between Cruz and Torres, he’s describing Torres’ problem with her previous boyfriend as “he cheat,” and his thick accent makes it sound like “eat s*.” This is repeated 8 or 10 times, for comic effect.
Amelia talks openly about being involved in an affair with “great sex.” Viktor and some airport employees play cards late at night, gambling for an abandoned pair of panties that supposedly belonged to Cher (Viktor thinks the other guys are saying that they’re all supposed to “share” them). The stop-and-start romance between Viktor and Amelia finally develops to the kissing stage; and next thing we see, Viktor is waking up in his makeshift bed made from two racks of airport chairs pushed together. The “bed” is wide enough for two people, and Viktor is over to one side, but the other side is empty. I’d say that scene was constructed as deliberately ambiguous.
There’s some on-screen drinking. A drug smuggler is caught red-handed, and we later hear that an airport employee is involved in selling drugs, but there’s no on-screen drug use.
Several sequences in the story are quite sad, while others appear to be sad but turn out okay. We finally learn the reason Viktor came to the U.S. in the first place, and it’s a very touching one.
The acting is superb. The camera work, including the unusual technique of deliberately overexposing some shots due to backlight from windows, is very good. And the full-size mockup airport terminal, which I understand was constructed somewhere in the desert, is flawless.
For people able to handle the content issues, this is a thoughtful and engaging film. One of the few releases this summer that’s not a sequel or a remake. It might be good as a married couples’ date movie.
Violence: Minor / Profanity: Moderate / Sex and Nudity: Mild