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For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.

(Photo Merrick Morton)

photo caption:
HOME IS WHERE YOU HANG YOUR HAT: Viktor Navorski (Tom Hanks) must make the best of his accommodations when a coup in his homeland leaves him stranded at the airport in New York.
end caption.


"The Terminal": Spielberg Back in Form With Tenderhearted Sitcom

Review by Kam Williams

Although Steven Spielberg has been nominated 10 times for an Oscar – taking home four – over the course of his career, he has hit a bit of a dry spell this millennium. All the legendary director has to show, since his last win in 1999 for Saving Private Ryan, is three sub-par offerings: Artificial Intelligence, Minority Report, and Catch Me If You Can.

However, with The Terminal, he proves he can still make a movie as magical as E.T. and Close Encounters, as riveting as Raiders of the Lost Ark and Jaws, and as moving as Private Ryan and Schindler's List. Plus, he's added another ingredient to his bag of tricks – humor. This new picture is a side-splitting sitcom which also relies on those more familiar elements of the Spielberg formula.

Based on an idea developed by Oscar-nominated scriptwriter Andrew Niccol, which was turned into a screenplay by Sacha Gervasi and Jeff Nathanson, The Terminal is a touching tale which sends messages about friendship, family, generosity, status, serendipity, play, loyalty, and love.

What makes the movie unusual is that it all takes place within the claustrophobic confines of the international terminal at New York City's JFK Airport. The plot revolves around the peculiar predicament of a visitor from the mythical nation of Krakozhia. This naive innocent lands in a bureaucratic legal limbo, literally and figuratively, after a coup d'etat occurs in his homeland while his plane is in the air. With his visa now invalid, our protagonist finds himself unable to enter the United States, yet not allowed to return to his homeland.

Tom Hanks delivers a peerless performance as Viktor Navorski, a traveler from Eastern Europe stuck at Gate 67. Because he barely speaks English, Viktor must survive by his wits. Initially, he looks about as adrift and isolated as the character Hanks played in Cast Away, despite all the hustle and bustle surrounding him.

He forages for food and finds ways to make himself comfortable, accommodating himself to Muzak, pedestrian traffic, and hard plastic chairs. After Immigration Agent Dolores Torres (Zoe Saldana) repeatedly refuses his requests to honor his passport, and when her "by the book" boss, Frank Dixon (Stanley Tucci), officiously rubber stamps her denials, Viktor resigns himself to making the best of a bad situation.

So, he begins to befriend some of the regulars who have seen him loitering around for days. There's Gupta (Kumar Pallana), the janitor from India, himself a refugee,; Enrique (Diego Luna), an airport food service worker willing to trade some vittles for a little advice about how to approach the girl he has a crush on; and Joe (Chi McBride) an affable baggage handler with a free seat in a backroom poker game. But the person Viktor finds most intriguing is Amelia (Catherine Zeta-Jones), the glamorous and carefree flight attendant who breezes through the concourse every now and then.

Between his immigration efforts, the enterprising alien lands gainful employment, familiarizes himself with some of the language and customs, buys a new wardrobe, samples junk food, serves as an interpreter for a suicidal Russian being turned away at customs, and, of course, gets that dream date with the sexy stewardess before the surprising resolution. Viktor becomes fully-acclimated to and accepted in his new environs, much to the chagrin of Commissioner Dixon who wants the unwelcome squatter out of his hair.

Hanks and Zeta have never been better, and of equal importance are the members of The Terminal's colorful supporting cast. These veteran character actors imbue their smaller roles with a richness which make this cross-cultural comedy come alive in a way which leaves the audience laughing while shedding heartfelt tears. There are cameo appearances by the late Tony Randall and Larry King.

This is the funniest movie since My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which, incidentally, was produced by Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson.

Excellent (4 stars). Rated PG-13 for brief profanity and drug references.

end of review.

For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.


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