About Features Reviews Community Screenings Archives Home
June 2004

By Julian Roman

The Terminal

Distributor: Dreamworks SKG
Director: Steven Spielberg
Producers: Laurie MacDonald, Walter F. Parkes, Steven Spielberg
Screenplaywriters: Sacha Gervasi and Jeff Nathanson
Cinematographyer: Janusz Kaminski
Composer: John Williams
Cast: Tom Hanks, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Stanley Tucci, Chi McBride, Diego Luna, Zoe Saldana



A few weeks ago, rumors surfaced that Steven Spielberg re-shot the ending of The Terminal because of poor test screenings. He should have re-shot the entire film. The Terminal is the worst Spielberg film I've ever seen. It's preposterous in every possible way. I was befuddled while sitting through this arduous film. It has a weak premise that is milked for ninety-minutes too long. The sappy comedy, silly romance, totally unrealistic plot, this film is a wreck from start to finish. No amount of star power, not even the mighty Tom Hanks, could have saved the movie. Spielberg has had an incredible run of success in Hollywood. He was bound to hit a low point sooner or later. The film will make money because of the marquis names, but will leave audiences totally unsatisfied.

Hanks stars as the semi-Eastern European Victor Navorski. He's on his way to New York City to finish a mythical quest involving the contents of a peanut can. He gets stuck in JFK airport because his country undergoes a coup during the flight. His passport is no longer valid; so he can't enter the United States or go back home. He's forced to live in the airport terminal until the situation in Krakosia, that's right, the one and only Krakosia, is resolved. His sojourn in the terminal spawns many side stories. He romances a hot flight attendant with low self-esteem (Catherine Zeta-Jones), battles the airport's unscrupulous supervisor (Stanley Tucci), and by gosh, makes some friends along the way (Chi McBride, Diego Luna, and Kumar Pallana)

The Terminal is basically a one-trick pony that's forced into three acts. The story is paper-thin and it's mercilessly drawn out. Viktor Navorski could not stay in the airport for as long he does without something happening. Everyone loves him. He wins over the whole damn place, but is kept under wraps because the airport supervisor has this great dislike for him. This is something that is never explained and constantly glossed over. Why does Stanley Tucci's character put up with him for so long if he's a constant nuisance? At first it makes sense to ignore him, but the guy stays in limbo and screws up his perfect little world. We're supposed to believe that it's a waiting game between the two. He wants Viktor to leave so he can arrest him and become someone else's problem. Well, if months and months go by, and Viktor hasn't left yet, it's safe to assume that the plan's not working. Stanley Tucci's unnatural hatred for Viktor and the way he reacts in the end is asinine.

The humor and romance is about as contrived as it gets. Everything happens just in time to fit perfectly into the situation. Viktor always meets the right people at the right time whenever something goes wrong. Problems are magically taken care of. This is sloppy script work at it's worst and unforgivable. The romance with Catherine Zeta-Jones barely qualifies as such. Her place in the film is unnecessary. She serves as another plot device used to burn time and provide an easy out. I found their interaction to be forced. There's no screen chemistry between her and Tom Hanks. Catherine Zeta-Jones is very talented and a beautiful woman, but is horribly miscast in this film.

The actors do their best with a shoddy script. Tom Hanks plods through the film like a sack of potatoes, but it actually lends to the character's charm. Viktor is not the problem here. Everything that surrounds him is. The story just runs out of steam for everyone, even the director. Spielberg seems to lose interest in the end. Viktor's predicament is quickly resolved when we finally find out what's in the peanut can. Don't get too excited because it's nothing interesting. In fact, it's very disappointing, two hours of waiting and no peanuts.

The Terminal is a bad movie. We come to expect greatness from the Spielberg-Hanks combo and are resolutely let down. This film was doomed from the beginning with a feeble plot. It might have worked if ET smashed through the terminal on a big dinosaur that was being chased by Nazi UFO's.