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"The Terminal" Movie Review

Stuck in a Holding Pattern

By

Tom Hanks Diego Luna The Terminal

Diego Luna, Tom Hanks, Kumar Pallana and Chi McBride in "The Terminal"

Photo © DreamWorks Pictures
If you can get past the fact Tom Hanks’ character learns English at an incredibly accelerated rate and if you can overlook the lack of chemistry between Catherine Zeta-Jones and Hanks, then you’ll be able to get some enjoyment out of “The Terminal.”

“The Terminal” is the story of Viktor Navorski (Hanks), a traveler who’s stranded at John F. Kennedy International Airport after a coup topples the leadership of his homeland, the fictional Krakozhia. The new rulers aren’t recognized by the United States, so Viktor finds himself stuck between a rock and a hard place, unable to enter the U.S. and unable to fly home because his passport is no longer valid. He’s told ‘America is closed’ and is forced to wait out the war in the international terminal, passing the time learning English, hanging out with a few sympathetic airport workers, falling for a stewardess, and trying to avoid causing further problems for the airport’s homeland security official (played by Stanley Tucci).

“The Terminal” benefits from the artistically uncomplicated meshing of good buddies Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg (“Saving Private Ryan,” “Band of Brothers” and “Catch Me If You Can”) but really misses the mark when it incorporates an ill-conceived love story between Hanks and Catherine Zeta-Jones into the plot. As Viktor, Hanks is genuine and appealing, making it near impossible not to have sympathy for his plight. But throw Zeta-Jones into the frame as a stewardess who admits to always getting involved with the wrong men, and the movie becomes a muddled mess. Zeta-Jones does nothing to make audiences empathize with her character’s inability to find true love. Pairing her with Hanks, as likeable as his character is, sends the movie off on a tangent that almost – but, thankfully, not quite - kills the film. And let’s just be brutally honest: Catherine Zeta-Jones is gorgeous. Even if you don’t admire her acting talent, you have to admit she’s a very beautiful woman. Not to knock Hanks, but come on, he’s not exactly in the same league as Zeta-Jones. If you plop them outside the movie world and into reality, would someone like Zeta-Jones instantly fall for this weird guy who stalks her in an airport? I don't think so. I didn’t believe the quick pairing of these two in the movie, and sadly, the love story is an unnecessary distraction in an otherwise entertaining and moving film.

“The Terminal” does provide an answer to the perplexing question of what happens to all the items lost in an airport. And the cast of characters who interact with Hanks – Diego Luna, Zoe Saldana, Stanley Tucci, Chi McBride, Barry Shabaka Henley, and especially Kumar Pallana – all add a lot of humanity and charm to the picture. If only Spielberg had erased the romance from the script and added in a little more time with each member of the interesting ensemble of actors who portray the airport workers, then “The Terminal” would have really achieved something special. But with the love story in place, “The Terminal” stretches the limits of believability beyond what I was willing to forgive.

GRADE: C+ (B+ for Hanks and Spielberg, D+ for the unlikely love story)

"The Terminal" was directed by Steven Spielberg and is rated PG-13 for brief language and drug references.

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