Steven Spielberg likes his candy-floss movies - and even his more 'serious' movies normally have that sugary sweet edge. Recently, I have enjoyed revisiting his classics - like Duel - as much as some of his new efforts - like the excellent Cruise vehicle Minority Report. I am eagerly anticipating their reunion on War of the Worlds, but in the mean time there are plenty of other Spielberg classics to enjoy. The Terminal sees a reunion between Spielberg and one of his other leading men - Tom Hanks. They previously worked together on Saving Private Ryan and Catch Me If You Can with much success. The question is whether or not they got it right this time.
Viktor Navorski has just made the flight over to America from his homeland Krakozhia - one of the ex-Soviet States. The only problem is that Krakozhia ran into some troubles just as he arrived in the US, leading to him being denied a permit to enter the Country. At the same time, they will not allow him to travel home because his homeland is no longer considered a country. It is a technicality that leaves him adrift in the airport waiting for the situation to be resolved. Worse still, he speaks almost no English, so initially this is a nightmare. After a few sleepless nights in the lounge, he gets to know the various characters that populate the Airport - from a love-struck baggage carrier to the conspiracy theorist floor-sweeper, whose only joy is watching people ignoring the signs and trip up on wet patches on the floor. He slowly learns English and finds ways of earning money to eat by helping people out. Eventually his honest, thoughtful actions and behaviour gain him both the attention of a beautiful stewardess and of the head of Airport Security, who makes it his mission in life to get rid of Victor.
I have luke warm feelings about Tom Hanks - for every Saving Private Ryan there's a You've Got Mail. Back in the old days his cheesy Eighties movies were great - not least Big - but most of his later roles were largely unimpressive. Here, as the lost foreigner Victor, he is able to go back to basics - stop playing Tom Hanks for once - and in the process, I quite warmed to his character. Sure, his incessant decency is a staple of Hanks repertoire, but here it works for him and you actually grow to like him. Although billed as co-starring with Catherine Zeta-Jones, her role here is not that big, but still quite important. She plays the airline hostess with terrible luck in love and the soppy romance that develops between them is handled remarkably well for veteran slush-puppy Spielberg. I don't know the last movie I saw her show off her acting skills in but the fun Entrapment, the excellent Traffic and even the disappointing Ocean's Twelve has at least kept her busy. Here she is at least looking gorgeous as ever - although a little different from usual for some reason I can't quite place - and she plays the part perfectly convincingly. The other important character is the Airport Security Chief, played by the great Stanley Tucci. Even though it is quite a dastardly role - you are certainly not supposed to like him - he is still on scene-stealing form. He is a vastly underrated and subsequently underused actor, never truly acknowledged for his little gems like Big Night, so it is good to see him play such a vital role in a popular film.
I don't think The Terminal is anything particularly special, nor even memorable, but it is a perfectly enjoyable - if a touch overlong - movie that has that feel-good effect Spielberg is famed for. In fact, having seen Castaway recently on TV, I had much the same feeling as that with this movie. Similarly this isn't a role Hanks will either be loved or critically acclaimed for, but he does a decent job and it is a nicely modest character for him to play. Between a solid cast and a witty, sentimental script filmed by a director who is clearly still a child at heart, you can't help but enjoy the movie on a lazy night in.
Our Review Ethos