The Terminal

on June 18, 2004 by Christine James
Combine "The Secret of My Success" with "Being There" and...who knows what you'd get, but it's bound to be better than this manufactured and cloying comedy/drama about a Chauncey Gardiner-type hero who triumphs despite his own obliviousness.

Tom Hanks plays Viktor Navorski, resident of the (fictional) Russia-adjacent Krakozhia--that is, until his country is taken over by insurgents, rendering his citizenship null and void. This happens, unfortunately, just as he lands at JFK Airport for a visit to New York; with his passport now invalid, he is not allowed into the United States. At the same time, he is not permitted to return to Krakozhia due a flight ban in his besieged homeland. So what's an officious, self-serving airport security chief (Stanley Tucci) to do? Confine Viktor to the airport terminal until the mess is straightened out, of course, doing nothing more about the situation even when days turn into weeks and weeks turn into months. Not wanting to call attention to his unique dilemma lest he jeopardize a promotion, the ridiculously scheming Chief Dixon hopes Viktor will simply break the law and leave the terminal, thereby becoming "someone else's problem." But the honest Viktor resolutely abides by the disingenuously-issued order not to enter New York, and an epic waiting game ensues. For the audience, at least, who must endure more than two hours of Tom Hanks acting like a language barrier is a mental deficiency. Most of the time he plays Viktor as some sort of man-child who can't figure out how to take charge and do something about his fate. Instead, he mills around eating all the fast food he can buy with the coins he collects from returning luggage carts, socializes awkwardly with the purposefully eccentric staff and woos a beautiful stewardess (Catherine Zeta-Jones) whose personality, if that matters, is defined by her dating a married man and having read a book about Napoleon.

Viktor's skills as a handyman become apparent as he improves upon the disused gate where he now resides, but not enough is made of this; one expects from the ads that Viktor finds a way to turn the mundanity of the airport into magic, but he doesn't. Midway into the film, Viktor wins over the entire workforce of the terminal's food court and shopping plaza with a noble act, but it's not till the end that they bestow him with airport-specific freebies. Had they been given to him right when he made his positive impression, it would have built more of a community-spirit rooting interest and provided an opportunity to create a bizarre environment filled with aviation-themed souvenirs, tourist trinkets and the like.

The phrase "terminal boredom" takes on new meaning with this tedious, insincere malarkey that wants badly to play on emotions it's not capable of generating itself. It's worse than actually being stuck indefinitely at an airport because you don't even get to shop. Starring Tom Hanks, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Stanley Tucci, Kumar Pallana, Diego Luna and Zoe Saldana. Directed by Steven Spielberg. Written by Sacha Gervasi and Jeff Nathanson. Produced by Walter F. Parkes, Laurie MacDonald and Steven Spielberg. A DreamWorks release. Comedy/Drama. PG-13 for brief language and drug references. Running time: 128 min

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