Say, honey, would you mind if I went off on a short trip?
Tom Hanks is Viktor Navorski arriving at New York's JFK. While in the air from Eastern Europe, his homeland of Krakozia - probably a chronic trouble spot in the Balkans - slips into a government coup. It's revoked all of its passports and, in response, the U.S. State Department has nullified all travel visas issued to Krakozian nationals. So, when going through Immigration, Viktor is told that he can neither enter the United States or fly back to the Old Country. The resident chief immigration officer, Frank Dixon (Stanley Tucci), allows him to stay in the International Arrivals Lounge - a overnight state of limbo that eventually drags into nine months. And since Viktor never got as far as Customs, what's in that can of peanuts that he guards so closely?
THE TERMINAL is built around the clever premise that you can, as frequent fliers can attest, lead a full life even if confined within the limits of an airport transit lounge: learn a foreign language, get a job, make new friends, eat well, acquire a trendy wardrobe, sleep, maintain one's personal appearance, and, if you're lucky, find Love.
Stanley Tucci is excellent as Dixon, who's at first in sympathy with Viktor's plight, even going so far as to stage manage a breach in security through which he hopes Navorski will bolt into the outside world (thus becoming some other agency's problem). Eventually, however, Frank's attitude hardens after Viktor embarrasses him in front of some government inspectors. Something about a goat.
I found Catherine Zeta-Jones's role as the distracted and romantically unfulfilled flight attendant Amelia vaguely unsatisfying. Perhaps it's because her on-screen appearances came at erratic moments and were all too brief. There ought to be a law against beauty such as hers.
This wasn't the year's Best Picture, but it is most definitely an Oscar-worthy performance by Tom Hanks. Just depicting an evolution of English language skills from virtually non-existent to functional-with-an-accent is worth the Best Actor award in itself. In this regard, Tom's performance is eminently believable and seamless. Also, there was arguably an Oscar nomination due Art Direction for the interior of the Arrivals Lounge, which seems so real, but, in reality, was a complete construct-from-scratch in a 747 hanger out in Southern California's Mojave Desert at a storage site for mothballed aircraft.
Spielberg/Hanks has to be one of Hollywood's greatest working partnerships (SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, BAND OF BROTHERS), and I'm prepared to see anything they create.
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