A sentimental comedy from Steven Spielberg, The Terminal is like standing under a waterfall of vomit for two hours and occasionally being let out for air. Tom Hanks stars as Viktor Navorski, a visitor to the United States from the (fictional) Eastern European country of Krakozhia. When a coup at home leaves him officially stateless, he’s stuck in New York's JFK airport, unable to go home, unable to enter America. He must live in limbo...
Hanks is a likeable actor but rarely a subtle one. Viktor is another cutesy emotional heart-tugger in the Forrest Gump mould, all galumphing slapstick (the excruciatingly unfunny chair-slipping scene) and pity-me eyes (every other scene). Catherine Zeta-Jones glows effectively as the air hostess he's drawn to, but the character's so vapid that whenever she returns from a long-haul flight, you've forgotten she existed in the first place.
"THE FILM IS SELLING A LIE"
The star is given a rag-tag bunch of multi-ethnic mates - a romantically bashful Mexican (Diego Luna), easygoing Afro-American (Chi McBride) and "hilarious" suspicious Indian (Kumar Pallana) - to bounce off, while Stanley Tucci's uptight airport official is advised by his predecessor: "Compassion, Frank, that's the foundation of this country." Spielberg is regarded as a Hollywood liberal and The Terminal has a superficially cuddly, accept-everyone philosophy. But the film is selling a lie.
It's loosely based on the true-life case of an Iranian, Merhan Karimi Nasseri, who still lives in Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport, a mentally frail, lonely individual. This is the reality the filmmaker so assiduously avoids: messy, bruised and battered. Instead we're offered an eager-to-please fairytale, with a pantomime central performance, a few chuckles, and gee shucks sentimentality. You may laugh, you may cry. A lot of people will love this picture. Others will find it a Terminal - like any other - they're very happy to leave.