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September 9, 2004
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The Terminal
By Vicky Roach
September 09, 2004


WE have happily bought Tom Hanks as a hitman (The Road To Perdition), as an astronaut (Apollo 13) and even as a toy cowboy (Toy Story).

The Terminal
Stars: Tom Hanks, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Stanley Tucci
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cert: PG
Rating: **
But not even Hanks, Hollywood's most gifted Everyman, can pull off the role of Viktor Navorski, the citizen of a fictitious Eastern European country who arrives at New York's John F. Kennedy airport with a rusty Planters Peanuts tin and a ridiculous Slavic accent.

Navorski's simple, good-natured stoicism is profoundly irritating - not to mention offensively stereotypical.

It is no wonder customs chief Frank Dixon (Stanley Tucci) takes an instant dislike to Navorski.

Dixon does everything within his power to get rid of Navorski when the would-be tourist is stranded in transit after the government in his homeland is overthrown by a military coup.

Harder to swallow is the growing attraction between a glamorous flight attendant, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones, and the invisible working-class man.

As the pair's paths cross they form an unlikely friendship that evolves into something resembling romance.

But I'm getting ahead of myself here.

The Terminal is very loosely based on the true story of an Iranian refugee living in a Paris airport.

Navorski discovers when he reaches customs that his country no longer exists because of a coup that erupted while he was in the air.

Travelling on a passport from nowhere he is unable to legally enter the United States, so he bunks down in the terminal's international transit lounge to wait out the war at home.

Initially, Navorski's fish out of water is left gasping for air, but he is a quick learner (and a gifted linguist - mastering English in what seems like a matter of days).

Carving out an idiosyncratic niche for himself in an unused lounge, he discovers that JFK's air-conditioned limbo-land is "home" to a colourful bunch of characters.

These include the Indian cleaner who entertains himself by leaving wet patches for oblivious passers-by to slip on, since they always ignore the yellow warning pyramids.

In the recent, low-budget thriller Dirty Pretty Things, director Stephen Frears addressed the plight of illegal immigrants from an oblique - and thoroughly satisfying - perspective.

In The Terminal, the focus is on cute and sentimental.

And Viktor's bad English is played for cheap laughs - "he cheats" sounds like "eat shit".

The Terminal's premise was thin to begin with, the screenplay is surprisingly crude and Spielberg's direction is obvious and manipulative.

This has got to be his worst film since 1989's Always.

It seems not even the best talents get it right all the time.

The Daily Telegraph




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