Review: The Terminal (2004)

The Terminal

The Terminal



Steven Spielberg


Sacha Gervasi, Jeff Nathanson


128 min.


Tom Hanks, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Stanley Tucci, Chi McBride, Diego Luna, Barry Shabaka Henley, Kumar Pallana, Zoe Saldana, Eddie Jones, Jude Ciccolella

MPAA Rating

PG-13 (For brief language and drug references)

Buy/Rent Movie




What if your home country ceased to exist while traveling internationally? The Terminal is one man’s struggle to exist in the airport for a foreign nation against forces that want him out.

Tom Hanks stars as Viktor Navorski, a foreigner from the small nation of Krakhozia. He’s visiting the United States to complete a quest his father started before his death. He arrives at the JFK Airport in New York City ready to set foot into the busy city when he spots a news story about a civil war in his home country. The country’s diplomatic ties are severed and his passport is revoked. Viktor is trapped in the airport terminal and has no way to leave.

A ruthless, ladder-climbing security administrator is not able to let him into the United States and cannot deport him because of the war. So Viktor remains stuck for an indefinite time. The security admin Frank Dixon (Stanley Tucci) tries to get Viktor to leave the terminal so that the authorities can arrest him for illegally entering the country but Viktor seems too smart for him, even though his English is extremely poor.

While sleeping and living out of the terminal, scraping together change from returning used luggage trolleys, he meets several people who take an instant liking to his spirit and help him to support his survival. When he meets a flight attendant on a layover, he falls in love. Amelia Warren (Catherine Zeta-Jones) feels similarly about Viktor but knows nothing of his political status or origin. Through several encounters during her layovers, the two seem to fall hopelessly in love but Viktor’s failure to admit things about himself could tarnish and ruin their relationship. Besides, she’s married.

Hanks turns in a pretty typical performance: a little overzealous but effectual. The film relies on an effective cast playing ordinary and stereotypical roles. None is more hackneyed than that of Security Administrator Dixon. Tucci is a talented actor but the role is wasted on such a talent.

Much of the limited dimensionality can be attributed to screenwriters Sacha Gervasi and Jeff Nathanson. What they lack in character development they more than make up for with schmaltzy sentiment that works. The film does have some socio-political commentary that feels oddly germane to the current political climate in the United States.

You feel Viktor’s pains and successes but your feelings aren’t deepened until he reveals the contents of his peanut container and his goals for reaching New York City. The rest of the film builds up to a climax that is incredibly rewarding. Director Steven Spielberg deserves much of the praise for keeping the film from descending into pabulum, something a lesser director would have easily achieved.

The Terminal is a film that many audiences could grab a container of popcorn and sit in front of the movie screen or even television on home video and enjoy. It is a mix of carefully executed emotional scenes surrounded by humorous fish-out-of-water moments. It’s the type of movie that would easily entertain any viewer.

Review Written

March 3, 2005

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