The Terminal
Dreamworks // PG-13 // $29.99 // November 23, 2004
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted December 1, 2004
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The Movie:

"The Terminal" is the second collaboration between Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. This time, both have paired up to cover a rather unique true story. The film stars Hanks as Viktor Navorski, a native of Krakozhia, a fictional country somewhere around the neighborhood of Russia. While on a flight to JFK, the government of Victor's home country is overthrown, leading to a cancellation of his VISA once he arrives at JFK airport in New York City. Because the government has not recognized the new government of Victor's home country, he cannot be deported. So, essentially, Victor doesn't exist.

The latest head of the airport, Frank Dixon (a very good Stanley Tucci) realizes that he has a problem on his hands. Navorski wanders around the terminal daily, never leaving. Dixon even hints at a potential "escape" for Navorski so that he'd be someone else's problem, but Navorski continues to make the terminal his new home, even gaining some friends and allies along the way, while he waits for the situation at home to somehow turn itself around.

The entire picture revolves around Victor's adventures within the terminal. He finds something of a romantic interest in a stewardess, Amelia (Catherine Zeta-Jones). He comes to understand the janitor who works in the terminal, Gupta (Kumar Pallana). He tries to set up a romance for a food service worker (Diego Luna), in exchange for some food each day. He stumbles his way into a job in construction. He also begins to find that Dixon has lost his patience with him, as he begins to make Viktor's like miserable, especially after Viktor does something nice for another immigrant in the airport. As for that last part, it's one of the film's faults - Tucci's character takes a sudden swing into villain territory for seemingly no particular reason aside from the screenwriter suddenly felt the film needed one (which it didn't.)

Although the original screenplay was written by Andrew Niccol ("Gattaca"), the final credit goes to Sacha Gervasi and Jeff Nathanson - Nathanson being the one responsible for "Rush Hour 2" and "Speed 2". It goes without saying that I would definitely love to have seen Niccol's original take at the material. "The Terminal" certainly isn't a bad movie, but it's one that I didn't always find hugely compelling. There's not enough to the characters, for starters, and I didn't find any of the performances to be particularly strong. Hanks has been better elsewhere, as has Zeta Jones. In terms of the romantic angle, I didn't feel much chemistry between the two. Tucci is very funny at first, then the character abruptly turns dark. The other star of the picture is the terminal itself, which is not a real terminal, but a giant one constructed by production designer Alex McDowell. Unfortunately, I was never too thrilled with the look of the film - despite the massive set and another collaboration between Spielberg and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, the look of the film never seemed to take advantage of the sets or turn too noteworthy.

After a while, I thought that maybe the film would have been more interesting had it not been directed by Spielberg. The film underscores everything just a bit too much - while I usually enjoy the works of composer John Williams, his work here wasn't too interesting and occasionally seemed sappy. The film's attempts at humor are also pretty weak, usually involving pratfalls. A different screenwriter could maybe have made the dialogue feel more natural and relied less on pratfall-style humor. The film's pacing also lags at times, making the 128-minute film feel longer than it is.

"The Terminal" is a nice enough movie, it's a mildly charming movie here-and-there, but it's also a flawed movie. Two of the characters - Zeta-Jones's flight attendant and Tucci's "evil" airport head - could have been totally reworked. The Zeta-Jones character, in fact, could have probably been deleted from the movie as it is without too much loss. The romantic angle between her and Hank's characters in the film seems totally shoehorned in. The movie operates on a rather thin plot, but I just feel like it could have been made into something more interesting by another filmmaking team.


VIDEO: "The Terminal" is presented by Dreamworks in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Sharpness and detail seemed just satisfactory. The picture seems to have been shot with a bit of intentional softness. The picture usually appeared at least crisp, but fine details were not always apparent and the picture seemed a tad inconsistent in this regard.

The picture seemed free of all but a couple of tiny traces of pixelation. Edge enhancement wasn't an issue, either - there were a few moments where it appeared slightly and briefly, but it was certainly never a real distraction. The print appeared to be in excellent condition, with no specks, marks or wear. Colors remained fairly subdued throughout, although brighter colors occasionally appeared and looked fine, with no concerns. Black level remained solid, while flesh tones looked accurate.

SOUND: "The Terminal" is presented in Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1. The film's sound mix is very conservative, with little in the way of surround use. Mostly dialogue-driven, the majority of the sound is rooted in the front, with the score spread across the front speakers. Surrounds kick in with some minor reinforcement of the score and some brief sound effects/ambience, but this is certainly a pretty front-heavy effort.
EXTRAS: Nothing. There is also a Collector's Edition DVD for the film, which is where all the supplements apparently ended up. Even a trailer would have been nice here, but oh well.

Final Thoughts: "The Terminal" is probably the least interesting and least satisfying Spielberg effort I can remember seeing, but it's got its moments and Hanks offers a fine enough performance. Dreamworks offers a DVD w/satisfactory audio/video and no supplements (those looking for extras will have to turn to the Collector's Edition.) Rent it.

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