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Hanks flirts with existentialism, Zeta-Jones

By Kyle Smith
June 24, 2004

"The Terminal," Tom Hanks' latest comedic flirtation with an exotic accent, -- as if vocal intonations indicate versatility -- is far more cohesive and hospitable than Hanks' dirty south impersonation of Alec Guinness in the Coen brothers' "The Ladykillers." Hanks wisely underplays a bumbling, benevolent Eastern European traveling to New York who is forced to take up residence in Kennedy Airport when his fictional country of Krakozia -- at once satirized, mocked and beloved -- is dissolved while he is still airborne.

Director Steven Spielberg continues his recent rash of stylistic annoyances -- drifting cameras, meaningless beams of light streaming in through windows -- but "The Terminal" is simple without being too sentimental. Spielberg achieves a Capra-esque rhythm that hints at themes of patriotism and altruism without being, well, too Spielbergian about it.

Perhaps it's the typical postmodern existentialism of writer Andrew Niccol ("Gattaca," "The Truman Show," "Simone"), who gets story credit on "The Terminal," that keeps Spielberg's tinny child protagonists at bay. The film's final fifteen minutes, in particular, carry the same lonely desperation that defined "The Truman Show."

I've always been impressed with Spielberg's casting, and beyond the pleasant performance by Hanks there is "The Royal Tenenbaums'" irrepressible Kumar Pallana along with Diego Luna and Chi McBride as Hanks' airport cohorts. Catherine Zeta-Jones is hotter than ever, but it's her relationship with Hanks that is the least believable, ultimately keeping "The Terminal" grounded.

Scene Reporter Kyle Smith is a Communication junior.

He can be reached at

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