Friday, December 10, 2004

Filled with ennui this week, the early holiday ennui that seeps in and sucks the life force from you like a vampire dressed in candy canes.... But so as not to leave this space too vacant, here's a Thursday video review!

‘The Terminal’
We all pass through airport terminals, sometimes many times a year. But what if you had to live in one?
That’s the appealing premise of Steven Spielberg’s “The Terminal,” starring Tom Hanks as Viktor Navorski, a plucky foreigner who becomes “trapped” at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport.
Viktor’s homeland, the fictional Krakozhia, erupts into civil war while he’s in the air for a touristy visit to America, leaving him officially without a country, and unable to get permission to either leave or enter the United States. An officious airport bureaucrat (Stanley Tucci) shuffles Viktor out to the no-man’s land of the terminal to make his way, considering him “not my problem.”
What’s expected to be a day’s delay stretches into weeks and even months, in this tale loosely based on a true story.
The main attraction of “The Terminal” is a wonderful performance by Hanks, whose huge popularity sometimes makes you forget his immense talent. He burrows into Viktor’s skin, with a funny little accent and a fumbling, innocently comic approach that borrows heavily from Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp.
However, Viktor is almost more appealing earlier in the movie, as we feel his fear and uncertainty. The opening hour or so is gripping, with Hanks at the top of his game as Viktor, who can’t even speak English, has to find his way around the terminal labyrinth and learn to survive.
But as Viktor grows more comfortable in his airport home, even getting a high-paying job, he gets less interesting. A romantic subplot with a flight attendant played by Catherine Zeta-Jones goes nowhere, and eventually swamps the movie entirely. Jones’ character as presented is unlikable and unappealing, and there’s no real spark between her and Hanks.
This is Spielberg’s third movie with Hanks, but it’s not quite as dazzling as “Saving Private Ryan” or the frothy “Catch Me If You Can.” It’s solid entertainment, but it dissolves into too much Spielbergian sentiment by the end.
If you buy the central premise of “The Terminal,” you’ll probably enjoy it. Admittedly, “The Terminal” is a fable, and it seems to take place in a world where 9/11 never happened. But as fables go, it’s got decent wings.
*** of four

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