The Terminal (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner01/09/2004

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 125 mins

Something of a disappointment, despite solid work from Hanks and Tucci – it’s as if Spielberg assembled all the ingredients for a great film and then decided to experiment and threw away the recipe.

If you’ve seen the trailer for The Terminal, you could be forgiven for thinking this was Forrest Gump 2, given that it features Tom Hanks doing a “comedy” accent, plus lots of pratfalls and physical comedy. In addition, given that it’s directed by Steven Spielberg, you could also be forgiven for thinking that it was going to be a hugely sentimental, feel-good comedy with a dash of romcom thrown in – a sort of Sleepless At Terminal Four. In fact, the film is neither and the end result is a baffling disappointment, despite strong performances and the occasional good scene.

Stranded Due To Sudden Collapse Of Country

Hanks stars as Viktor Navorski, a visitor to the United States from Eastern Europe, who becomes stranded at JFK airport after his home country of Krakozhia erupts in a military coup while he is mid-flight. With his passport and visa both useless, Viktor isn’t allowed to either return home or set foot on American soil, though the bureaucratic airport official, Frank Dixon (Stanley Tucci) tells him he is welcome to remain in the terminal’s international transit lounge.

Dixon thinks Viktor will inevitably try to escape, thereby becoming someone else’s problem. However, he doesn’t, and instead he finds a deserted area of the airport in which to sleep and survives by eating discarded food.

He also gradually befriends the various members of the airport staff, including Diego Luna as a maintenance worker smitten with Zoe Saldana’s immigration official, and Gupta (Wes Anderson regular Kumar Pallana), who steals the entire film as the misanthropic cleaner whose only entertainment is watching passengers slip over on his freshly mopped floors.

The main problem with the film is that it is so frustrating – all the ingredients for a terrific film are present and yet the script refuses to do justice to any of the various sub-plots, leaving them under-developed and therefore uninvolving.

It’s almost as if, having built the lavish set and assembled the perfect cast, Spielberg suddenly decided to take all the previous criticism of his films on board and binned every scene that could be labelled “sentimental” or “feel-good”. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the “romance” between Viktor and Catherine Zeta-Jones’s lovelorn trolley dolly Amelia – despite an amusing, deliberately engineered “meet cute” scene, there’s no chemistry between them and the romance falls as flat as one of Gupta’s victims.

Spielberg Attempts Too Much And Misses Everything

Spielberg obviously intended a blend of Capra (heart-warming sentimentality) and Kafka (struggle against bureaucracy) but in striving for both it ends up as neither and the end result is strangely un-engaging. What should have been an ingenious combination of Groundhog Day and It’s A Wonderful Life ends up as a poorly thought-out, badly written mess, particularly where it relies on Hanks’s inconsistent “comedy” English for laughs.

That said, Hanks and Tucci are on top form and there are a several good scenes, most of which are in the trailer – Guptar providing the entertainment during Viktor and Amelia’s date being the obvious example.

Ultimately, then, The Terminal is a disappointing film that fails to deliver on its potential. As a result it’s only marginally more entertaining than being stuck at an actual airport terminal for two hours. Wait for the in-flight movie.

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Content updated: 24/04/2014 19:10

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