Starring: Tom Hanks, Stanley Tucci, Diego Luna, Chi McBride, Kumar Pallana, Zoe Saldana, Catherine Zeta Jones
The Terminal details the life of Viktor Navorski (Hanks) after he lands in New York just as his country erupts in war and his passport becomes invalid. Viktor takes up residence in the airport, befriending the staff and setting up a whole new life. Along the way he helps food truck driver Enrique (Luna) to woo Officer Torres (Saldana), convinces Gupta the cleaner (Pallana) that he isn’t a spy and meets and falls for airhostess Amelia (Zeta-Jones).
When Viktor first lands he cannot really understand any English, which leads to laughs aplenty, and he seems to have an innate habit of messing things up. Despite this mixture, the film avoids slapstick humour and manages to be an excellently entertaining comedy. Hanks is perfect as Viktor, the bumbling foreigner trying to get along in a situation he doesn’t understand. However the real genius comes through the performances of the supporting cast - Kumar Pallana has some fantastic lines and the most memorable scene of the entire film when he juggles plates and hoops as tableside entertainment for Viktor and Amelia. Chi McBride stands out in his second sterling back-up role of the summer as Joe, another airport worker, following his turn as police chief in ‘I Robot’. Most lovable of all is Enrique, played by Diego Luna, an actor to watch, whose previous screen credits mostly involve little-known foreign language films.
There are two downsides to the film. One is the inclusion of Catherine Zeta-Jones’ character at all. It is not that CZJ is bad, it is just that the character is shallow and unbelievable and totally unnecessary. The attempt to throw in some romance for Viktor is completely wrong for the story and detracts from all the wonderful moments. The second fault is related to this, in that something is lacking in the latter portion of the film, where the pace falls down and the story trails off. This I believe would not have happened if Amelia had been left out and Viktor’s changes and relationships with friends had taken more centre stage.
In general, the writing and direction of the film are flawless, with commendations due to Andrew Niccol, Sacha Gervasi and Jeff Nathanson as well as Steven Spielberg. These three writers between them have quite an eclectic background: one of them responsible for ‘The Truman Show’, one for ‘Catch Me If You Can’ and ‘Rush Hour 2’ and the third relatively untried on the big screen. If you liked even a section of any one of those three films, I suspect The Terminal will not leave you cold. The ending might be a little disappointing but the overall impression of the film is one of successful comedy and a film I certainly wouldn’t mind re-watching.