Lost in Transportation
"The Terminal" is rather a strange movie, it doesn't really have a strong plot, and it is more of a gentle, almost whimsical tale about a man who becomes stranded at JFK airport. The man in question is Viktor Navorski (Tom Hanks - Catch Me If You Can) who having arrived in America finds himself in no mans land due to a coup in his homeland of Krakozia. With his country no longer recognized by America he is forced by the airport's immigration department to stay at the airport for as long as it takes for him to be allowed in or to return home. But as time goes on, and having made the airport his home he becomes a permanent thorn in the side of immigration official Frank Dixon (Stanley Tucci - The Core) who is trying to become the next airport commissioner.
I have to admit that the whole concept to "The Terminal" seems pretty far fetched but then sometimes life is stranger than fiction, especially when you learn that "The Terminal" was inspired by the true story of Merhan Nasseri, an Iranian refugee who in 1988 landed at Charles de Gaulle airport and due to the loss of paper work ended up living in the airport till 2006. Of course there are huge differences between Nasseri's real story and that which has been constructed for "The Terminal" but just the whole idea of having to learn to survive in such a limited world allows for some fascinating stories and indeed allows your own imagination to run riot. How would you go about sleeping, washing, paying for food and just generally surviving if you were stuck in an airport?
There are two themes running through "The Terminal", first of which is of course Victor's attempts to live a semi-normal life within the confines of the airports four walls, but this leads to what I would say is probably the main theme and that is his interactions with those around him. You have his relationship with Frank Dixon who prides himself on running a smooth efficient airport and so feels that Victor is a dirty mark in his otherwise clockwork running operation. The way their relationship grows with Frank becoming more and more exasperated every time that Victor manages to rise above the limitations imposed on him, whilst Victor seems to antagonise him with his honest, simple behaviour provides a lot of laughs.
Then there are the relationships between Victor and the workers he meets on a daily basis and over time become an extended family. They all help to build up a very gentle story which provides the basis for the movies comedy. My only negative when it comes to these relationships is the romantic storyline between Victor and flight attendant, Amelia played by Catherine Zeta-Jones. For me this not only feels slightly out of place but doesn't really add anything of significance to "The Terminal". Where as the other relationships serve a purpose and help to move the story forwards, this one just doesn't seem to do anything or really go anywhere.
My only other slight negative is the story revolving around the reason for Victor coming to America and the small tin can which is the key to it. To start with I actually liked this element to the story and it added a bit of intrigue as to why he was there and why it was so important to him that he gets out of the airport. But then when his mission is finally explained it feels a little weak to account for his actions. It also doesn't help that it is the reasons for coming to America which add an extra couple of scenes to the end of "The Terminal" which makes it feel a little over long at 124 minutes and I would have been happier to see it end about 15 minutes earlier at a much more prominent and emotional high.
As for the acting well Tom Hanks as Viktor Navorski is spot on and has a Chaplin quality about him in the easy going way he plays Viktor. But it is because of the easy going nature and frankly innocent charm which Hanks instills into Viktor that not only do we warm to the way he gets on with the workers her befriends but find it all the more amusing that he is a thorn in Frank's side. On the subject of which Tucci is just as good as the jobs worth Frank who becomes exasperated by Viktor.
What this all boils down to is that when watching "The Terminal" don't expect to be inundated with hilarious, outrageous jokes or a sweeping drama, as it is definitely not that sort of movie. What "The Terminal" is, is a gentle movie which explores human interactions whilst mixing in some great old fashioned comedy which if you enjoy the movies of Chaplin then no doubt you will gain some enjoyment from this. At 124 minutes it does start to drag towards the end but it still has just enough about it to keep you interested for its duration.