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11 reviews, 90 user ratings

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Terminal, The
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by Mel Valentin

"The first sign of Spielberg and Hanks' decline? Let's hope not."
3 stars

Future film historians may point to "The Terminal" as the inevitable turning point in Steven Spielberg's career, the sad decline that accompanies middle age. Tom Hanks may be no stranger to that decline himself. "The Terminal" reunites Steven Spielberg with Tom Hanks, adds a maudlin,predictable story line, which results in superficial, and, ultimately banal entertainment. "The Terminal" shares some similarities with Spielberg's previous effort, "Catch Me If You Can," but lacks "Catch Me If You Can’s" narrative drive, energy, or its consistently lighter tone, "The Terminal." Spielberg and Hanks can and have made better films, and hopefully, "The Terminal" isn't an indication that only "safe," equally uninspired projects lie ahead for both of them, either individually or collectively.

In The Terminal, a foreign traveler, Viktor Navorski (Tom Hanks), finds himself trapped in a (mildly) Kafkaesque, bureaucratic nightmare: his country, the fictional, if clearly Eastern European, Krahkosia, has suffered a military coup. Since the United States hasn't diplomatically recognized the new leadership, Viktor's passport is declared invalid. He can neither return to his country nor leave the JFK/New York City airport terminal. Faced with a predictable antagonist, the Homeland Security officer, Frank Dixon (Stanley Tucci), in charge of customs and immigration, Viktor quickly, and all too easily, adapts to life inside the terminal. The film implies that Viktor's background as the citizen of a backwards, strife-ridden, former Communist Eastern European country has prepared him for the bureaucratic red tape he's confronting inside the airport terminal. One of the better moments in the film features Viktor's daily return to the same office inside the terminal for a visa application. Each time, his application is denied, but his attitude never turns to frustration, anger, or even resignation. Another highlight is his comical attempt to navigate the treacherous waters of the English language while he applies for various jobs inside the terminal.

The terminal is meant to be a microcosm of the United States, with secondary characters representing various assimilated or not-yet-assimilated ethnic groups: a Latino food cart employee (Diego Luna), an African-American baggage handler (Chi McBride), and an Indian janitor (Kumar Pallana). The food cart employee and the janitor have the requisite backstories, the employee is secretly in love with an INS agent, the other has escaped the authorities in his native India. Oddly, the baggage handler has no backstory, perhaps because he's fully assimilated into the American way of life. The terminal also contains a food court area, which allows for some obvious comic bits, reaffirms the melting pot ideal implicit in the narrative, and that, alas, serves as ubiquitous, unrestrained and pernicious product placement. Americans, the narrative suggests, aren't defined by a common culture as much as by consumerism and the fetishization of brand names.

No mainstream Hollywood film is complete without adding the obligatory romantic subplot, here personified by Amelia (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a flight attendant. Catherine Zeta-Jones gives one of her better performances, displaying uncommon subtlety and emotional vulnerability. Her role in the narrative, however, is sporadic, only increasing in visibility and screen time in the last third of the film. This problem is only one of several with the script and its execution by Spielberg. Surprising for a Spielberg film, the various subplots aren't well integrated into the overall story arc. Rather than cross-cutting between the main plot line and the busy subplots, allowing themes, subtext, and plot turns to reinforce one another, Spielberg handles them sequentially, for example, resolving the food cart's employee's character arc in one twenty-minute sequence.

Dixon's undermotivated antagonism toward Viktor proves to be equally problematic. For most of the film, Dixon is content to allow Viktor to live inside the terminal, their conflict kept to a bare minimum. It's only when the screenwriters inject an unrelated event, Dixon's rough, arrogant handling of another Eastern European visitor that Dixon is transformed into the film's villain. He declares that Viktor will never leave the terminal under his watch. But given genre conventions and Spielberg's obvious desire to follow them unquestioningly, the audience fully knows that Viktor will overcome all obstacles, have his day in New York City and, of course, winning Amelia's devotion.

Audiences shouldn’t expect any plot-driven surprises from The Terminal, with one exception: Viktor's unspoken, hidden motivation for coming to New York City in the first place. The mystery behind Viktor's trip to New York City is symbolized by a recycled object he carries with him everywhere. Viktor's comments about the mystery object are kept suitably cryptic until the third act, when he reveals its contents to Amelia (in a sentimental, manipulative scene shot with overbright backlighting and gauzy filters).

Nonetheless, even a film mired in predictability isn't without some pleasures. Most of the performances and the early comic turns by Hanks provide the film with much-needed energy. "The Terminal" can be best described as "Spielberg-lite" (a moniker once used for one of Spielberg's protégés, Robert Zemeckis). Overall, "The Terminal" was a moderately disappointing experience (the trailer alone was enough to clue me into the generic nature of the script and the storytelling style). Recommended for casual filmgoers, hardcore Spielberg fans, or to filmgoers with low or lowered expectations.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=10087&reviewer=402
originally posted: 05/27/05 23:46:20
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User Comments

12/23/13 Michelle O the "romance" didn't fly but Hanks made the rest work 4 stars
6/14/10 fartvenugen as fulfilling as two crackers filled with poop. 2 stars
7/07/09 *Holy_J@lapeno* Its descent. Its fun to watch once. After that, your bored out of your rocker 3 stars
1/02/09 Josef Brillisnt. Subtly Funny and great directing and acting 5 stars
7/21/08 the dork knight All this sugary sweetness makes you want to puke 2 stars
8/13/07 yousef contrived, cliched rubbish - rubbish. not a good film by any stretch. piss poor. 1 stars
8/08/07 EZ $$ worth a buy 4 stars
5/30/07 ES I didn't buy into any of the romance but I liked this movie very much 4 stars
3/26/07 David Pollastrini interesting subject 4 stars
3/26/07 kathy underheart Does Childress fellate Spielberg for free, or does he get paid? 1 stars
3/20/07 Kimberly Kaminsky I LOVE IT.... 5 stars
3/12/07 Cornelius Liked it, always like the light-hearted stuff. Contrived in parts though, but OK overall 4 stars
2/16/07 Vip Ebriega Spielberg serves up another Hollywood great. 4 stars
1/14/07 R.W.Welch Fairly amusing but too contrived to carry much punch. 3 stars
1/07/07 Dina Very new plot and setting ..loved the movie's uniqueness 5 stars
11/24/06 Khadija a "NICE" to watch movie.. 3 stars
11/15/06 J.Pet Has to be one of my most HATED films! 1 stars
11/13/06 matt Dull. Contrived. Cliche. Avoid like the plague. 1 stars
8/03/06 EZ Very different plot but great filmmakers pulled it off 4 stars
6/24/06 MP Bartley Slushy guff, but Spielberg makes it work - just. The crisp bag scene is hilarious. 3 stars
5/25/06 William Goss Borderline force-fed fluff. Lightweight, and proud of it, which both helps and hinders it. 3 stars
3/02/06 Tanya cute Tom hanks was very good the story was also good 5 stars
10/24/05 xavier the film really potrayed the stuff what tom hanks has in him,in a word it is simply superb 5 stars
9/09/05 Ric Even with a few major missteps, the film has that hard to resist Spielberg magic. 5 stars
9/02/05 Zack i loved it 4 stars
9/01/05 Tom Burns Tom Hanks gives an unforgettable performance. 5 stars
8/18/05 ES Has a gump feel to it, you can't help but be impressed with how he makes money to eat 4 stars
8/05/05 C. Miller Enjoyed the movie--I could relate to it in a lot of ways. 4 stars
7/25/05 Eric Rollins A noun turned into a verb. 2 stars
6/07/05 Darcy watchable 4 stars
6/04/05 Charlene Javier Disappointing because of the combo. 3 stars
5/27/05 Quigley spielberg dissapoints as well as hanks. this is a thing unheard of, but it happens. I weep. 3 stars
5/10/05 Simon Very charming. Flawed, but makes you forget your ordinary life- a film's primary objective. 4 stars
4/02/05 Cindy A little slow, but I love Tom Hanks and enjoyed the move. 4 stars
3/23/05 Charlie Who ever calls this movie 'Terminally Boring' sucks. 4 stars
2/22/05 Jenna Furr Tediously contorted + whole subplot w/ Catherine Shitta-Jones belongs on cutting room floor 3 stars
2/21/05 Rosa Zared BB R word word word word 2 stars
1/09/05 KCobain Much more than fluff. Come on; look closer mate. 5 stars
1/01/05 MyGreenBed It's rare when I can't finish a movie, Terminal is appropriately named. 1 stars
12/24/04 Freddy boring and annoying 2 stars
12/18/04 HL Spielberg makes you think you're watching a good movie? 3 stars
12/06/04 fred The movie at best was 'below average' 2 stars
12/04/04 Helge Samuelsen A warm and funny movie, that I really enjoyed. 5 stars
12/01/04 the Grinch Improbable but based on true story of Iranian refugee who lived in Paris airport terminal 4 stars
11/27/04 Emperor's New Clothes Sweet, a little too easy, but oh Tom Hanks, how you rock 4 stars
11/13/04 RAJEN GREAT MOVIE lots of emotion and actors and Indian too. 5 stars
10/23/04 UMER tom is probably the best actor around these days 4 stars
10/01/04 sam s thanks for the grammer lesson you are oh such a talented reviewer! 5 stars
9/21/04 Helen Bradley Tom Hanks brillant, a masterpiece 5 stars
9/16/04 Jenna Furr Tediously contorted + whole subplot w/ Catherine Shitta-Jones belongs on cutting room floor 3 stars
9/16/04 Rosa Zared BB R word word word word 2 stars
9/08/04 valentina WONDERFUL!! 5 stars
7/25/04 Melissa Wonderful to watch...both the movie and Tom Hanks! 5 stars
7/24/04 S.F Improbable circumstances ( i hope) ...yet watchable 4 stars
7/23/04 Ken Graves Great story with great actors. 4 stars
7/21/04 Nobody This movie is funny go see it right now 5 stars
7/20/04 Valerie A different, but very enjoyable film. A nice change of pace from all the other movies... 4 stars
7/18/04 Gene Entertaining and enjoyable--another very enjoyable Tom Hanks movie! 4 stars
7/18/04 Cassandra Farrar it's Hanks and Spielberg - it can't be bad 4 stars
7/17/04 Richard Awesome 4 stars
7/17/04 Onyeabo Monago Lots of movie spam 2 stars
7/17/04 legend Could've been a great film but it got too sappy for me. 4 stars
7/16/04 Chris Terrible movie. I spent the last half laughing at how stupid it was. I want my 2 hours back 1 stars
7/12/04 Mike V Tom Hanks is great but the movie is a little too corny. 3 stars
7/10/04 Carrie I laughed throughout as did others in the theater. Light and funny. Well acted. 5 stars
7/07/04 Sandra Love Funny, warm, emotional, touching! That the Tucci character would actually do this, unbelie 5 stars
7/07/04 Margie no big explosions or crazy CG, but I had a great time, and what more can you ask? 5 stars
7/05/04 Johnny Great film/movie! A fun ride, first class acting! A must see! 5 stars
7/01/04 sonia Why is this movie so uncritical, apolitical!!! 2 stars
7/01/04 The More You Know Gotta love a chick flick that's got a cool, jazzy core. 5 stars
6/29/04 Maz A fun ride, wonderfully acted. Check it out 5 stars
6/29/04 John verr very charming but also very contrived charachters 3 stars
6/26/04 ron Enjoyable. Totally realistic? No, but it's a MOVIE so have some good laughs. 4 stars
6/26/04 Todd Bertuzzi What a great movie, very nice, funny, heartwarming. Allen Roberts doesn't have a clue! 5 stars
6/24/04 jcjs fun, no brainer, lightened up, clever, funny, tender, touching, filled with character, love 5 stars
6/23/04 daniel ehiwario Delightful, heartwarming movie 4 stars
6/22/04 allen roberts Hope I never meet anyone who ranked this movie "awesome". 1 stars
6/22/04 Gray 100% harmless and funny 5 stars
6/21/04 steve amusing and lovable 4 stars
6/21/04 ajay Dude, Kumar from the Wes Anderson movies is in it. F'in Awsome!!! 5 stars
6/21/04 Marc Basque Spielberg's still got it. One of the best movies of the years. 5 stars
6/21/04 dominique cave Delightful, heartwarming movie Thoroughly enjoyable. 4 stars
6/21/04 Gina Golberg Loved it, especially the little tribute to the Jazz musicians. And I was glad ZETA JONES do 5 stars
6/21/04 Schaefling Disappointing ending that betrays the true nature of the lead characters 2 stars
6/20/04 The More You Know Great Father's Day movie featuring Hanks & the greatest jazz photo ever! 5 stars
6/19/04 Desperado Great movie Hanks and Stevie are back again in a great story, acting and storytelling r A+ 5 stars
6/18/04 Bryan Ehg, i've seen Tom Hanks in many other films. This ones just allright. 3 stars
6/18/04 Micheal Jordan Hoop it up! 5 stars
6/17/04 Jawie Not good. No point to the story. 2 stars
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  18-Jun-2004 (PG-13)
  DVD: 23-Nov-2004

  03-Sep-2004 (12)


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