|The Terminal won't strike most people as a revolutionary film, but owing to a very comedic performance from star Tom Hanks, the film floats on a cloud of its own fantasy for most of its two plus hours and will probably take most of the audience members along for the ride. Perhaps it is due to his experience with long-winded historical epics, but in his last several feature film creations, director Steven Spielberg has taken quite a liberty with his audiences' willingness to sit in their seats for just a few minutes longer. Simply put, The Terminal will try the patience of its viewers more during the opening scenes than it will in the later hours.|
Film audiences today are savvy and they don't really require the amount of set-up Spielberg and his writers give the audience in the first half-hour. There is far too much time given to digest a rather small amount of introductory information about Hanks's character, "Viktor Navorski," a man whose country is brought down by a military coup during Navorski's transatlantic flight to America. Anyone who has seen even ten seconds of the trailer knows that the film is about a man stuck in an airport terminal. The name of the film, quite frankly, gives the audience a huge clue as to what the film's about.
Therefore it seems safe to say that the film could have seen its easiest additional editing near the beginning. The Terminal is a rare film in that it actually improves as it ages (the usual path of a film is to start high and tank late in the second act when boredom sets in) and this is the only reason viewers will be able to forgive Spielberg for their sleepy bottoms. Taking into account the fact that none of the vignettes that populate the second and third act needed to be cut out for time's sake (each small story within the film has its own charms), the time spent in the beginning of the film (say the first 20 minutes) could easily have run with at least fifty percent of its scenes cut.
Though the film is based on an actual story (a man apparently lived for several months in a New York airport during his country's governmental collapse), much of this film is set firmly in the realm of fantasy, with an emphasis on awe and wonder infusing most of the scenes rather than a truly believable storyline of Viktor Navorski's plight. Though the emotions run high in some areas of the film (as they should), the film is a much more playful ballet than a serious tome on the plight of international relations, immigration to the United States and a post-terrorist-attack America.
Weaving into the film the contemporary subjects of national security and the recently created federal government department of "Homeland Defense," the movie touches briefly on those serious subjects affecting most of America these days, but doesn't hit the viewer over the head with a bat with the problem. The film is first and foremost a comedy and with just about every joke in this film finding purchase on the rungs of the comedic ladder, it's fortunate for viewers that Tom Hanks can handle any joke thrown at him via well-timed dialogue or swiftly executed physical comedy. Hanks is entertaining in both areas, though his willingness to throw his body in all sorts of directions in various antics is a mark of his remarkable talent. The supporting cast is not as universally impressive, though no actor will be given their walking papers after the release of this film.
Certainly the title of "Scene Stealing Performance" should be bestowed upon the ancient Kumar Pallana, an Indian actor with a more than impressive talent for comedic timing. Pallana, playing airport janitor "Gupta Rajan," is a delight whether he is engaged in wet floor subterfuge (his favorite activity is watching people slip and fall on freshly mopped floors) or whether he is yelling something hilarious at any one of the unfortunate characters to cross his path. Slight of build Mexican actor Diego Luna also gives a fresh performance as the lovelorn "Enrique Cruz," a man smitten with fellow airport employee Dolores Torres (played by ZoŽ Saldana with appreciable candor). Catherine Zeta-Jones is beautiful in her role as flight attendant "Amelia" (Hanks' love interest), and is an interesting, though surprising casting choice for the character.
The Terminal fits the bill as a lightly comedic summer diversion and though it is not a stand-out piece of filmmaking, it still carries with it the unique Spielberg stamp of ingenuity. Fanciful and light, the story is a warmhearted one and viewers will benefit from the sincerity of its characters. Tom Hanks, never one to let an audience down, continues in his reign as one of Hollywood's most bankable movie stars and tackles well the difficulties of speaking Slavic accented English. After viewers make it through the first reel or two of this film, they will certainly be impressed by the excellent comedic performances from the diverse cast.
Review by Kelsey Wyatt.