Ever experienced the mind-numbing inconvenience of being made to sit around a noisy and uncomfortable airport lounge for a few hours while you wait for a delayed flight? Try turning those few hours into a few months and then a few more months on top of that and youll find it all too easy to sympathise with Viktor Navorski, Tom Hanks character in The Terminal.
Surrounded by over-priced eateries, bustling businessmen and slippery floors, Navorskis personal Hell must be pretty darn close to the real one, for hes not just delayed at New Yorks JFK airport – hes there indefinitely. A citizen of the fictitious Eastern European land of Krakozhia, he lands in the Big Apple to find his homeland has been the subject of a coup. His visa instantly becomes invalid, and he loses his entitlement to enter the United States. In short, he becomes trapped a prisoner to food-courts, moving walkways and red tape. Sounds like it could never happen, right? Well wrong, actually, because it did really happen to some poor sod in France a few years back (I mean, just imagine the nightmare of being stuck not only in an airport, but in a FRENCH airport!).
Steven Spielbergs ode to bureaucracy gone mad is a flawed film but also a delightful one. Its abound with plot-holes and unlikelihoods (where is everyone else who was on his flight, and why doesnt he make even one attempt to simply make a run for it?), but its also performed and directed so marvellously well by Messrs Hanks and Spielberg that its impossible not to take a lot of warmth and enjoyment from. Theres some great, unpretentious, dont-have-to-think-about-this-too-much humour, and the introduction of Catherine Zeta-Jones stewardess Amelia as an unlikely love interest creates an extra reason to root for our unassuming hero.
Its a rom-com in essence, but it has its own distinct formula (certain events in the Hanks/Zeta-Jones relationship come as unexpected) and other priorities running over and above romance. Youd think a film set in such limited confines might be left, a bit like its lead character, with nowhere to go but, on the contrary, it grows and blossoms as the tale progresses and fits its two-and-a-bit hour running time perfectly. If they were to start showing films as good as this one to the delayed masses in departure lounges, those lost hours suddenly wouldnt seem so bad after all.