The Terminal Review
A military coup in the Eastern European republic of Krakozhia creates a strange bureaucratic paradox when one of its citizens, a Mr Viktor Navorski (Tom Hanks) arrives at JFK airport for a visit to New York. Since Viktor's country is no longer recognised by the United States and his passport is invalid, the head of airport security, Frank Dixon (Stanley Tucci), explains he cannot be allowed to step onto American soil but at the same time he doesn't have valid documents to board a return flight home. Until the crisis in Krakozhia is resolved, Viktor must remain indefinitely within the confines of the international departure lounge.
As hours stretch into days and days into weeks, Viktor learns to make the best of his predicament and to use the terminal's facilities to his advantage. His Krakhozian money is no good so he pays for food and supplies by collecting baggage trolleys and returning them for a quarter. He turns a new wing still under construction into a makeshift home and teaches himself English from books and magazines bought in a gift shop. As time passes, Viktor befriends a handful of sympathetic airport employees who help him out when they can and he even finds romance with a beautiful stewardess named Amelia Warren (Catherine Zeta Jones). In the meantime, the rule-fixated Dixon is becoming more and more perturbed by Viktor's presence in his airport and he starts looking for a way to have him removed and made somebody else's problem.
The main appeal of The Terminal comes from its hero's resourcefulness in the face of an absurd, unfair situation. Screenwriters Sacha Gervasi and Jeff Nathanson understand the appeal of watching the little guy prevail against the system and their inventive script gets a lot of mileage out of its simple premise. At two hours and fifteen minutes, the film doesn't feel long. Nor is it as sentimental as you'd expect. The romance between Viktor and Amelia is handled in quite an adult way and the story's inevitable resolution is quietly moving rather than tearjerking, thanks to a touching twist involving Viktor's reason for coming to the Big Apple.
There are occasional lapses into sitcom cuteness, like Viktor playing matchmaker for a lovesick porter. The plot mechanics sometimes reveal themselves, particularly with regards to Stanley Tucci's character. Although Tucci does a good job playing the bureaucratic villain, the screenplay never gives him a good reason for persecuting Viktor when it might be in his best interests to help him. These are minor complaints however about a charming and engaging comedy that's directed by Steven Spielberg with the same deft touch he brought to Catch Me If You Can. Tom Hanks, making his third film for the director, adds another memorable character to his repertoire and special kudos must go to Alex McDowell, who designed the vast and amazingly convincing airport set. This year's Oscar for Best Production Design seems well and truly sewn up.