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THE TERMINAL

An Eastern European visiting America for the first time is forced to set up housekeeping in New York’s JFK airport because his passport is no longer valid due to a bloody coup that took place in his homeland while he was in flight.

CAST: Tom Hanks, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Stanley Tucci, Chi McBride, Diego Luna, Barry Shabaka-Henley, Gupta Rajan, Zoe Saldana, Eddie Jones, Jude Ciccolella, Corey Reynolds, Gillermo Diaz, Rini Bell, Stephen Mendel, Valera Nikolaev, Michael Nouri, Benny Golson

DIRECTOR: Steven Spielberg

SCREENWRITERS: Sacha Gervasi and Jeff Nathanson

 

"Mr. Spielberg might have tackled this story in several ways: as a humanistic comedy drama, a satire of bureaucracy, a critique of overwrought security procedures, a psychological study, or a Kafkaesque nightmare. Since most of those options would require more depth and insight than Spielberg can generally muster, he's chosen the simplest possible route, going mostly for laughs, with intermittent lapses into sentimentality and melodrama...one of Spielberg's worst movies…Although it's hard to decide what's most irritating about ‘The Terminal,’ my vote goes to its utterly false view of contemporary airports -- no long lines waiting to go through security, passengers yanking off their shoes, or metal detectors warning the world about ordinary belt buckles -- and an utterly simplistic view of contemporary America." --David Sterritt, The Christian Science Monitor

"Mr. Spielberg has transformed this quintessential modern nightmare of interrupted air travel into a vision of earthly paradise…What sounds like a scenario out of Kafka or Gogol turns into a benign fairy tale of solidarity and resilience...It may strike you that some of the good feeling on display in ‘The Terminal’ is pretty phony. The story, at times, is thin to the point of banality, and the filmmakers seem uncomfortable with characters who manifest anything more complicated than simple, quirky goodness…Rarely have I been so acutely aware of a movie's softness and sentimentality, and rarely have I minded less." --A. O. Scott, The New York Times

"…an uneven mix of comedy and pathos -- along with a lesson about what makes America great (compassion) and what makes it not so great (government bureaucrats)…Hanks, with his clownish gait and wobbly speech, is likable but not altogether credible…The flimsy script doesn't help him, or anyone else, either…Spielberg's penchant for feel-good sentimentality gets the better of him in a draggy denouement that finds Viktor determined to accomplish the mission that brought him to America in the first place. It's a hokey piece of melodrama in a movie that cheats its characters -- and its audience -- out of some emotional truth." --Steven Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer

"Tom Hanks gives a beautifully nuanced performance as Viktor Navorski, a rustic visitor en route to New York from Eastern Europe who is stranded at JFK when his country undergoes a violent coup… The conceit is a bit too cute. It’s not enough for Spielberg to show us Viktor’s (highly ingenious) survival skills—he also has to transform him into a kind of holy messenger who brings hope to everybody… Spielberg has been quoted as saying that he wanted to make people laugh and cry and feel good about the world in ‘difficult times,’ but he lets almost none of those times intrude, even though his film is centered on the security apparatus of a major airport." --Peter Rainer, New York Magazine

"…a feel-good film of such originality and sweetness in a summer of otherwise derivative sequels and remakes that it practically qualifies for miracle status. Certainly no actor with half of Mr. Hanks’ box-office draw, and no director of lesser vision and power than Mr. Spielberg, would ever have gotten it made. All I can say to them both is hallelujah. ‘The Terminal’ finds them both in a Frank Capra mood, and the resulting charm is radiantly alive…in a movie this entertaining, the occasional potholes are eventually smoothed by the masonry of Mr. Spielberg’s unsentimental direction, overwhelmed by the breathtaking majesty of one of the most terrific movie sets I’ve ever seen, and outnumbered by the bountiful artistic choices in Mr. Hanks’ admirable and colorful performance." --Rex Reed, The New York Observer

"Spielberg shortchanges his star with a wobbly vehicle that quickly sinks to the lowest level of sitcom humor, trite optimism and knee-jerk patriotism...Hanks and Catherine Zeta-Jones have about as much chemistry as Ben and J. Lo in ‘Gigli’…As this band of Good Samaritans gathers around Viktor and cheers him on to Capraesque triumph, a lump may or may not swell up in your throat, causing you to gag if not wretch. If there is a point to this interminable ‘Terminal,’ I missed it. For me, it’s simply a missed connection." --Guy Flatley, Moviecrazed

"Though its mixture of situation comedy, romance and Capra-esque uplift doesn't quite gel, it boasts several genuinely charming and moving sequences...In general, Spielberg is at his best when viewing the world through a child's eyes and at his worst when dealing with the adult worlds of love and sex, and the love story in ‘The Terminal’ is its weakest element…Though Zeta-Jones looks terrific and gives one of the best performances in the film and in her recent career, there is no chemistry between her and Hanks…becomes increasingly sentimental and whimsical in its final act, with a climax that's so saccharine and movie-ish that it's almost harder to swallow than the film's relentless, shameless product placement." --Jonathan Foreman, The New York Post

"This lovable but over-stretched charmer is beautifully acted and expertly crafted, another Spielbergian technological marvel. But there's something missing in the story, which, a bit puzzlingly, tends to ignore the possible effects of today's omnipresent tabloids and nonstop TV cable news--even though this is a story you'd expect to see popping up on the networks, CNN and Fox News sooner or later…if it didn't convince me 100 percent, it stirred my heart." --Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

"During the opening sequences, Hanks is so consistently heartfelt and inventive, and Spielberg so attentive to his star, that you root for the movie to cohere as something wonderful. It never does...Spielberg and company can't sustain this doggerel bliss beyond its first blast of charm. The outcome is abrupt and incongruous, like much of the movie's second half." --Michael Sragow, The Baltimore Sun

"‘The Terminal’ isn't a disaster, but after an entertaining start it congeals into something icky and fake, and it leaves you thinking that Spielberg and his team of screenwriters missed the real story…most of the payoffs are cheap, and Spielberg's tastefulness doesn't save from fatuousness the vision of smiling little people (many of them dark) throwing in their lot with Viktor against the Man." --David Edelstein, Slate

"It's a role that might once have bellowed Robin Williams, and indeed, Hanks's stranger in a strange land bears a more than passing resemblance to the repellently cloying Russian immigrant Williams played in the Reagan-era heart-warmer ‘Moscow on the Hudson.’
…Antic without being funny, ‘The Terminal's’ attempts at humor are largely predicated on calculating how many pratfalls can be derived from a wet floor…Relentlessly behaviorist, the filmmaker seldom fails to pat the puppy and, applying John Williams's melodic treacle, woo the viewer with cheap sentiment." --J. Hoberman, The Village Voice

"The film is so flaccid and pedestrian one can hardly believe it comes from the director whom a majority of Americans would presume is the best this country has…Hanks is a fine actor, but he isn't aging well; he can't play the charming schoolboy anymore… Zeta-Jones brightens the decor as a romantically abused flight attendant with whom Viktor falls in love, but she's in and out of the movie like, well, a flight attendant. The supporting players, chiefly Diego Luna, Chi McBride and Kumar Pallana, are all ill-used." --John Anderson, Newsday