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 September 16, 2004 KST 20:34 (GMT+9)
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A 2-hour layover you'll actually like

There are so many places where "The Terminal" could falter. It is, after all, a movie about a man stuck in an airport terminal for a very, very long time.
While a terminal may be a larger setting than a single room, it's still just one location. And yes, these days, many airport terminals do offer Internet cafes, computer docking stations, cosmetics, fashion and electronics stores, restaurant, coffee and bar franchises, even showering facilities. But day in, day out, however is a person not to get bored?
Well, when Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg are on hand, boredom is not an option. The movie that comes out of this winning combination (Spielberg directed Hanks in "Saving Private Ryan" and "Catch Me If You Can"; the two were executive producers of "Band of Brothers") is surprisingly charming, even with its manufactured ending.
In this post-9/11 era, a movie about an airport terminal seems an odd choice. Even without all the new regulations, there is a lot to complain about when it comes to travelling and terminals, especially if you're between flights. But in creating "The Terminal," it's as if Spielberg took an old teapot and shined it clean enough to reflect your teeth in a wide smile. In other words, this is one happy movie.
Spielberg focuses on relationships an excellent choice, as the cast turns in endearing performances. Most of the characters tug at the heart, from a janitor (Kumar Pallana) who at first seems to be a jerk to a food service employee (Diego Luna) who is in love with an INS lady (Zoe Saldana) who's also a Trekkie. There's also Amelia (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a flight attendant who's having an affair with a married man, and Dixon (Stanley Tucci), an immigration officer who plays strictly by the rules.
Tucci turns in a solid performance, but his character could have been a little less of a caricature. Nonetheless, Dixon does almost redeem himself toward the end. While all the characters have their own problems, they all come to be affected by, if not to care for, Viktor Navorski (Hanks).
Navorski lands at JFK airport in New York only to find that war has broken out in his homeland of Krakhozia, a fictional Eastern European nation. Navorski's visa is no longer valid, because his country no longer exists. He's slipped into a bureaucratic crack that allows him neither to enter the United States nor to return to a nonexisting country.
So he stays at the terminal, initially at Dixon's order. What Dixon doesn't expect is for Navorski to actually remain at the terminal and not attempt to escape. He beds down in an unused gate, washes in the restrooms and eventually figures out the luggage cart system. For every cart he returns, he gets a quarter. With enough quarters, he can buy food. Dixon tries to get rid of Navorski through all sorts of creative, legal methods, but fails. He fails because Navorski is a smart guy with a good heart. Navorski even finds gainful employment as a contractor, earning more money than Dixon.
In this film, human nature is good. It's quite possible to leave the theater thinking, "Aw, shucks, ain't life splendid." And then you associate those good feelings with "The Terminal," making this a strangely addicting film, at least potentially. I haven't gone back to see it again, but I would.


The Terminal
Comedy, Romance / English
128 mins.
Now playing


by Joe Yonghee <yonghee@joongang.co.kr>

2004.09.10

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