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Just plane excellent

by Louis B. Hobson
Calgary Sun

A great script doesnít necessarily guarantee a great film, but itís the best starting point.

DISPLACED ... Tom Hanks stars as a man caught between countries in the new film from director Steven Spielberg, The Terminal.

That’s what Jeff Nathanson, Sacha Gervasi and Andrew Niccol have crafted in The Terminal, a film as delightful and entertaining as it is insightful.

Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks have taken this screenplay and given it a humanity and tenderness we find far too rarely, especially in a summer movie season.

For all the very best reasons, The Terminal is a movie for all seasons and viewers.

It’s an absurd little premise that’s used to make comments about bureaucracy, friendship, dreams, hope and failure.

Viktor Navorski (Hanks) is on his way to New York on a very personal mission.

En route to The Big Apple, Navorski’s little Eastern European country, Krakozhia, suffers a military coup which means Navorski’s passport is not recognized by either the U.S. or Krakozhia.

He is forced to stay in the transit lounge of New York’s JFK International Airport until the situation is resolved for nine months. (The film is loosely based on the true story of Merhan Karimi Nasseri, who has been stranded at Paris’ Charles De Gaulle airport since 1988.)

In that time, Navorski learns to speak English, makes numerous friends, solves life’s little problems for airport workers and drives airport manager Frank Dixon (Stanley Tucci) to distraction.

The Terminal works so wonderfully because Spielberg knows how to orchestrate the small moments that deliver the big emotional responses.

Viktor is smitten by Amelia (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a United Airlines flight attendant who is in a long-term, nowhere relationship with a married man.

Viktor invites her to have a quiet meal with him, which is catered by three of the friends he has made among low-level airport workers.

The lengths these friends go to help Viktor are simultaneously hilarious and touching, as is what happens during the dinner.

Hanks is a master of understatement and that is precisely what is needed to keep The Terminal from falling into manic slapstick.

This is a movie about little problems and little dreams that seem monumental to those they affect. The less the characters do, the more the audience identifies, laughs and cries.

Hanks has a dream cast of supporting actors.

Dixon is a powder keg of repressed emotions. Just how is confirmed when he opens a desk drawer to reveal dozens of bottles of prescription drugs, but Tucci has already convinced us of this long before.

Zeta-Jones doesn’t need to tell us how self-loathing and desperate Amelia is. It’s all in her eyes.

As the love-sick catering worker, Diego Luna is like a little puppy dog, all wide-eyed and eager.

Kumar Pallana gives one of the most memorable performances as Gupta the East Indian janitor whose entertainment is watching people slip and slide across his wet floors because they ignore all the signs he posts.

The rewards of the film are like Gupta’s rewards.

They may be small and a little obvious, but they go straight to the heart, leaving a warmth and smile that linger for a very long time.

The Terminal is a place where time flies by so quickly and is so pleasant you’ll want to return.

Sun rating (out of 5 stars)


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