I had very high expectations for The Terminal, as I have loved Tom Hanks since Bosom Buddies. I still think guys in drag are awesome. But I digress…
The film opens with classic Hollywood entrance. The bustling airport, cutesy music, opening credits scroll: all were lighthearted and unoriginal, but not poorly done. It seems every time I watch a movie these days I’m so busy dragging my expectations into it that the film can’t stand on its own. This was no different: I hold Spielberg to an unfairly high standard.
I was disconcerted at first by the Rus accent on Mr. Hanks, but quickly warmed to the character. His fictional country has begun civil war, and he is stuck in limbo. He can’t leave the airport to reach his final destination (hence the double meaning of the film’s title). He starts making the best of what he has, and I groaned inwardly. Was this movie going to be Cast Away on Dry Land? Hanks certainly shone in that role, but I wasn’t interested in a reprise. Luckily, this portion of the movie is not very long, though it’s obvious through the film that Spielberg is in love with Hanks’ ability to steal the screen.
While Catherine Zeta-Jones seems to almost always be stuck in the same role as a self-assured, sexually dominant woman, this role is not like that at all. I had thought that she couldn’t really act because the roles were all delivered in the same way. Zeta-Jones gives such a wonderful performance here. To me, this is the stuff the Academy should consider for acting awards. Amelia (her character) is so perfectly acted that I barely recognized the actor. Even the way she walks, tilts her head, and subtle accent changes are all so totally different from the normal performance. I was absorbed by the character, not the actor.
This could have been simply a cute little film about being stuck in an airport. Instead, it was a richly interwoven group of stories of those people whose lives had overlapped at the airport. The rules-mongering government agent who lets his compassion slip away in favor of his job; the food service man, love sick over the customs officer; the flight attendant who looks for love and acceptance where there is none. My favorite performance was the hilarious Gupta (Kumar Pallana), whose performance is charming, uplifting, humorous, and touching. Each character brings a bit of their outside lives into the terminal. Lesser movies cannot focus on so many characters without losing the audience.
This type of movie, without epic battles, sex, or death, is rarely the focus of the public’s attention for long. We crave the visceral so much that we lose the simple. It was fun and good-hearted but had so much more to offer as well. These actors and this director gave us a great movie when all it had to be was good.