6.11.2004

The Terminal: Humanity is Someone Else's Problem


I will disclaim this review with: I laughed out loud alot. Anybody would. It's a funny movie with a funny script. Andrew Niccol is a savant with the ability to satirize any prejudice from any culture and make it familiar, personal if you would. I identify with his work, you might, too. Go see it. ESL is the exploited comic element in the movie and should be witnessed.


As I made my departure from the theatre, I heard someone say "Has he ever played a romantic lead?"

They were talking about Tom Hanks.

I have just turned on my television and as it happens, You've Got Mail is airing on TBS. I'm sure this time last month, Sleepless In Seattle was on, too, and as far as I'm concerned, his greatest on-screen romance ever was in Splash (though one could also make a case for Turner & Hooch.) In each of these romantic comedies one can connect the dots, in all of these movies Tom Hanks:
• has the greatest one-liners
• is in charge of some kind of construction
• falls for a difficult woman (usually a blonde)
• has trouble communicating

So that answers that question.

Adding to the genre we now have The Terminal. The material for this movie was drawn from the life & times of Merhan Karimi Nasseri, an Iranian refugee who has been living at DeGaul airport since 1988. His is a fascinating and awful story about how governments have managed to squeeze all compassion out of governing societies.

This movie almost got there; the door was open for that idea, but it never walked through. Instead, we got Spielberg doing his part to make Homeland Security seem necessary, ridiculous and inhumane ...while pointing and laughing at our rabid consumerism. At every turn, Tucci's bureaucratic airport official character is trying to make Hanks someone else's responsability through both honest and dishonest means. It's hard to imagine that this is the reality of the way our civil servants work, until we hear Tucci say "Nineteen dollars an hour? That's more than I make." Suddenly the entire plot is not only feasible, it's believable.

Oh and ps. - there isn't a terminal within a hundred miles of NYC that looks like the one they built. JFK is massive but not an infested stripmall and LGA has ..mobiles. I've never set foot in Newark/Liberty but I'm pretty sure it doesn't look like the one in the movie either. It's nitpicky, yes I realize, but if you're going to make a movie about/around any NYC fixture just get Woody Allen as a consultant; he'll make damn sure it doesn't end up looking like Beijing Capital International Airport.

Then there was Catherine Zeta Jones miscast in a Meg Ryan role. CZJ & Hanks carried an awkward chemistry and the only time they looked good together on-screen was when one of them was crying. Then again, maybe it's Hanks - the last great on-screen love he had was a volleyball.

I'm not knocking Spielberg/Hanks - they do GREAT work - I'm just more interested in what will be the third in this series of airport-centric films from Spielberg.