The Terminal (2004)
Main cast: Tom Hanks (Viktor Navorski), Catherine Zeta-Jones (Amelia Warren), Stanley Tucci (Frank Dixon), Chi McBride (Joe Mulroy), Diego Luna (Enrique Cruz), Barry Shabaka Henley (Ray Thurman), Zoe Saldana (Officer Torres), and Kumar Pallana (Gupta Rajan)
Director: Steven Spielberg

Look, it's almost September, and it's time for Steven Spielberg and his biggest ho, Tom Hanks, to trot out another saccharine, incoherent movie masquerading as a Very Relevant Social Issue Movie. Only this time, the movie dilutes its not-too-subtle Americans, Be Kind To Foreigners message with a script that caters to the most indiscriminating palette. The main character, hero Viktor Navorksi, is a simplistic Forrest-Gump rehash minus the mental handicap (which probably would cost it a Oscar nomination, as mental handicaps are very big with the Academy) and this movie turns him into a Yeah, Foreigners Rule poster boy.

But with nothing about this movie that makes much sense, only people who are convinced that Hanks and Spielberg can never do wrong are the ones most likely to enjoy this movie. Bland, badly-paced, and too blatant in preaching a totally mixed message, the latter thanks to Spielberg's botched direction, this movie tells the story of Viktor Navorski, a foreigner who lands in JFK just as his country goes up in flames in revolution. That means his passport and visa are no longer valid and since the USA hasn't officially recognized the new government in Viktor's country, Viktor is now a man with no country. The airport head of security, Frank Dixon, fears that Viktor would ruin his chance at promotion so he has Viktor confined to the airport until he sorts out what he wants to do with Viktor. Days turn to months and soon Viktor is running his Disney charm on people in the airport.

The thing is, this movie doesn't even try to make Viktor human. Sure, Viktor sobs for a few seconds when he sees CNN reports of his country's spectacular kaboom, but other than that, he seems to exhibit no emotion about his predicament. He goes about his way in a stoic manner more appropriate to his actual raison d'etre as a political message. Even his daily queuing up before Officer Torres' counter isn't a sign of a man's desperation as much as it is a cheap gimmick to allow Viktor to matchmake her with the fast food cleaning kid Enrique Cruz. That's the whole point of this movie: to show Hanks off as America's Beacon of Light once more. Viktor is an everyman. He cheers up oppressed immigrant workers of the airport! He teaches an air stewardess, Amelia Warren (Catherine Zeta-Jones in an eye candy role), that she is not bad news even if she is having an affair with a married pilot! Viktor helps misunderstood medicine-smuggling tourists who just want to save their poor mothers from those evil Ugly American Airport Republicans like Frank Dixon! (It is convenient that no one can understand Viktor or help him - in JFK, the hub of international checkpoints! - but he is miraculously there to help people who can only speak in his native tongue - all hail Hanks, er, Viktor, the Savior of America!) And so it goes in this story, Viktor teaching the airport folks the meaning of...

Yes, the meaning of what, exactly? From Viktor's playing Everyman in his Forrest Gump-met-Superman manner to the expected "Go, Viktor, we oppressed airport staff will stand up to the Authority for you!" crowd cheer scene, I have no clear idea what this movie is trying to say. It sugarcoats its message, the boldest it can be is to turn Frank Dixon into a rigid, ambitious tightwad, so the only clear message it projects is this: Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg are the Best Human Beings on Earth and they want everybody to know it. At least Michael Moore's Farenheit 9/11 is more honest in that it goes for the jurgular, it doesn't sugarcoat its agenda, and it does away with the whole Hallmark crap about Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg once more guiding America to the Right Path. Isn't it time for Tom Hanks to get a Robin-Williams-style epiphany and start begging for serial killer roles to improve his "credibility"?

Rating: 53

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