The Terminal

The Terminal is one of those movies that are pure fluff, but in a good sense. A fluff movie is one that is light and fun, and typically pretty forgettable. After a while, one remembers seeing and liking it, but usually the exact reasons why are gone. This is not one of those movies where director Steven Spielberg wanted to make a statement, but one where he just wanted to have some fun, much like Catch Me If You Can. Both films are impeccably shot, feature actors doing work that is good but far beneath what they are capable of, but still fun to watch. Although the names above the marquis are Tom Hanks and Catherine Zeta-Jones, the real star of this film is the cavernous set Spielberg (Minority Report) built inside a hangar. It is simply astounding. The airport terminal is large, airy, and populated with actual stores and franchises like Burger King and Borders.

The plot centers around Viktor Navorski (The Ladykillers, Catch Me If You Can), a traveler from the fictional Eastern European country of Krakozhia. Mid-flight, Krakozhia goes to war, leaving Navorski in a state of diplomatic limbo when he arrives in New York. His passport, and as a result Navorski himself, are citizens of no country. Frank Dixon (Stanley Tucci, The Core, Maid in Manhattan) orders Navorski to stay in the terminal until the situation boils over, and hands him some food vouchers. Nobody expects Navorski to stay there for months on end. This is a fictional story by Andrew Niccol (Simone, The Truman Show), Sacha Gervasi (The Big Tease), and Jeff Nathanson (Catch Me If You Can, Rush Hour 2), but possibly loosely based on the life of Merhan Nasseri, an Iranian refugee who lives in Terminal 1 of Charles de Gaulle Airport in France.

Navorski speaks little English, and refuses to divulge why he is in New York. As the months pass, he begins to make friends with the various workers in the airport like Mulroy (Chi McBride, Paid in Full, Cradle 2 the Grave), Gupta Rajan (Kumar Pallana, Duplex, The Royal Tennenbaums), and Enrique Cruz (Diego Luna, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, Nicotina), who has a crush on Torres (Zoe Saldana, Pirates of the Caribbean, Drumline). He finds that he can survive and even prosper in the terminal, passing time and even getting a job. This annoys Dixon to no end, and it soon becomes his mission to try to get rid of Navorski. Amelia Warren (Catherine Zeta-Jones, Intolerable Cruelty, Sinbad) also comes into the picture. She is a stewardess with bad luck in men who befriends Navorski, and eventually the two become closer.

There really is nothing deep about The Terminal. It's a lightweight, feel good film about Navorski, and Hanks goes a nice job creating the character of an utterly polite man who will unfailingly go by the rules, even when it proves detrimental to him. Zeta-Jones is the wrong person for Warren. She is much too glamorous for the role, and while the makeup and wardrobe makes her look a little more 'ordinary,' she still looks like a supermodel. The minor characters are more diversions, and some are so flat they border on offensive. And the story does take on a high level of sappiness near the end, but Spielberg is used to coming as far up to the line as possible without crossing it. In other words, The Terminal is good enough to make people smile, but not good enough to remember.

Haro Rates It: Not Bad.
2 hours, 8 minutes, Rated PG-13 for brief language and drug references.

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