By Joon Soh
Korean moviegoers who have traveled abroad and experienced the frustration of being stranded in a foreign airport should definitely relate to ``The Terminal, which opens locally today. The film, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks, takes every travelers nightmare to the extreme, and despite suffering from a haphazard ending, transforms it into one of the more pleasant feel-good movies of the summer.
Hanks plays Viktor Narvorski, a simple man from a fictional Eastern European country who arrives at New York Citys JFK International Airport. While waiting to be processed, however, Viktors country undergoes a military coup, and due to bureaucratic complications, he is prevented from leaving the confines of the airport indefinitely.
With only his suitcase, a handful of food vouchers and a 15-minute calling card to his name, Viktor is let out into the airport to fend for himself. Hanks is on top of his form as Viktor, a Forrest Gump-ish character with limited English abilities. The different ways that the character finds to survive are clever and entertaining, though the amazing speed at which he picks up the language _ from at first being unable to understand a question like ``Do you speak English? to later carrying on conversations about love and Napoleon _ is a little unrealistic.
In fact, there are quite a few elements in the film that requires the audience to suspend their disbeliefs. While based on a true story of an Iranian man stuck in a Paris airport, ``The Terminal has more of the allegorical feel of a Frank Capra film, complete with an everyman who sticks up for the rights of the little people against the system. And the relationship that develops between Viktor and a flight attendant, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones, wouldnt feel out of place in a classic romance from the 1950s.
Transforming JFK into a microcosm of the American melting pot, Spielberg seemingly takes on issues that have become greater concerns in recent years, such as airport security and Americas treatment of foreigners. But similar to ``Forrest Gump, the film avoids making a coherent political point, opting for the sweet and fantastic instead.
Though not as flamboyant as other Spielberg outputs, ``Terminal is an extremely well-crafted film with a great cast, which includes Stanley Tucci as the evil airport manager and Gupta Rajan as a janitorial worker from India. And while Spielberg does go overboard in pushing for his usual feel-good finale, for the most part the director succeeds in keeping things simple but effective.
Stars: Tom Hanks, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Stanley Tucci
Director: Steven Spielberg
Length: 2 hours 8 minutes
Rating: All ages