Steven Spielberg’s 2004 film The Terminal is loosely based on the true story of Mehran Nasseri, a British Iranian man who briefly lived in Terminal 1 of Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport. Nasseri was later granted refugee status in Belgium but lacking paperwork and a passport, now has nowhere to go.
Tom Hanks plays Viktor Navorski; a kind natured tourist from Krakozhia; a Central European nation that descends into civil war while he is flying to New York.
Upon arrival, he is detained by the acting head of Homeland Security Frank Dixon (Stanley Tucci), who is as precise as the neatly organised papers on his desk. However, cannot communicate with the confused traveller.
Narvorski and Dixon engage in a cat and mouse game in which every effort by the affable Viktor to leave the airport or even make his life more bearable, by retrieving coins from abandoned luggage trolleys to feed himself in the highly overpriced JFK, is stifled by the rule-stricken American.
In a reprisal of his role in Cast Away, Hanks is again stranded; however, this time in a vast and lonely concourse. He learns to feast on dry biscuits, to build a shelter out of the abandoned airport seats at gate 67 and befriend cleaners, and air traffic ground staff.
Although his isolation, he is less alone than Dixon. This isn’t truer than when he embarks on a romantic quest with the troubled flight attendant, Amelia Warren (Catherine Zeta-Jones).
The harmful fable causes alarm, however. The film was released at a time of insecurity for many Americans. Spielberg one of the most assured directors when it comes to tone may have missed the mark. Apart from Dixon, the security staff all come across as friends rather than armed patrols. The potentially discomforting connotations is exaggerated by John Williams bubbly score which juxtaposes the traditional beeps, chatter and intercoms of real airports.
In 2018, attitudes towards airports remain in a climate of fear, yet for the sake of a film, Spielberg can be forgiven for focusing on the light rather than the dark.
The romance between Narvoski and Warren is whimsical, yet second to the excellent storylines of the supporting cast. Chi McBride, Diego Luna, and the delightful Kumar Pallana as a cleaner who likes to watch people fall on the wet floors (“It’s the only fun I have”) – are the shining stars of this film.
For all its good performance, fleeting charm and engaging narrative, product placement litter’s this film. Early on Dixon says: “There’s only one thing you can do here, Mr Navorski – shop.”
We all know airports serve as shopping malls, but this film acts as an advertisement in almost every scene.
Indeed this is not Hanks most exceptional travel flick but perfect for any travel wannabe who fantasises about watching aeroplanes take off all day, so I’ll take it.