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The Terminal (12A)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Booking The Flight: The Script, The Story; Waiting For The Flight: Building The Terminal; Boarding: The People of The Terminal (Tom Hanks is Viktor/Catherine Zeta-Jones is Amelia/Viktor's World); Take Off: Making The Terminal; In Flight Service: The Music of The Terminal; Landing: Airport Stories; Regions 2/4.

THE dream team pairing of Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks checks in with audiences for a third time, in this surprisingly intimate, yet completely feel-good movie, inspired by a real-life person.

Hanks stars as Viktor Navorski, a visitor to New York City from the mythical city of Krakozhia, in Eastern Europe, whose homeland erupts in a fiery coup while he is en-route, thereby invalidating his passport and visa, and preventing him from entering the United States.

Stranded at John F Kennedy International Airport, Viktor is forced to improvise his days and nights in the terminal’s international transit lounge, attempting to come to terms with a new culture and language, and to make a life for himself until the war at home is over.

Yet, as the days turn to months, Viktor finds himself becoming an unlikely hero to the airport community, who warm to the generosity and kindness of spirit he so frequently displays, while also embarking on his own romantic relationship with a flight attendant, named Amelia (played by Catherine Zeta-Jones).

Yet, while he proves an inspiration to the likes of baggage handler, Joe Mulroy (Chi McBride), food service guy, Enrique Cruz (Diego Luna), and janitor, Gupta Rajan (Kumar Pallana), his continued presence becomes a thorn in the side of the airport's new security chief, Frank Dixon (Stanley Tucci), who views Viktor as a potential career-wrecker.

Hence, a battle of wits develops between the two, with Dixon resorting to increasingly desperate measures to rid himself of Viktor, without seeming to breach any of the bureaucracy that continually inhibits him.

The character of Viktor is undoubtedly based on that of Merham Nasseri, a homeless Iranian who has resided at Charles de Gaulle airport, in Paris, for the past 16 years. But rather than opting for a warts-and-all depiction of airport life, and the nightmare of being stuck in a terminal, Spielberg has gone for a Capra-esque tale of human spirit triumphing against the odds.

And while the story that ensues is as sweet as we have come to expect from Spielberg, there is still plenty to admire in the way the movie consistently manages to find new ways of entertaining, while not always doing what is expected.

The much-touted romance between Hanks and Zeta-Jones, for instance, is probably the weakest point, and their relationship fails to convince, yet his interplay with most of the other airport dwellers is both delicately and touchingly portrayed.

Pallana, of The Royal Tenenbaums fame, is especially affecting, as an illegal immigrant, who treats Viktor’s presence with increasing suspicion, while Luna’s love-struck food service guy provides plenty of comic interludes.

But it is Tucci’s bullish security chief who steals the show, providing Hanks with a wonderful sparring partner throughout the movie.

Given that this is a Spielberg movie, there are also plenty of subtle director’s touches to look out for, which recall the gentle simplicity of some of his biggest movies (such as the terrified look in Roy Scheider’s eyes, in Jaws, or the shaking water, in Jurassic Park), making The Terminal a magical experience for anyone prepared to take a heart-warming break from reality for a while.

This is, at the end of the day, an absorbing character study, with shades of Hanks’ equally mesmerising turn in CastAway, that marks a welcome departure from the strains of everyday life.

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