The Terminal: Underrated Movie of the Day

Since I am on university holiday, I might as well kill some time by analysing a movie on my own.

What does one think when I say “Steven Spielberg”? Many people might say Jaws, E.T., Schindler’s List, Jurassic Park, and countless other films. The Terminal is one of those movies, and in my opinion, doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. It is a heart-warming film with a touch of comedy and drama.

Tom Hanks stars as Viktor Navorski from the fictional Eastern European republic of Krakozhia. He arrives in New York City, unbeknown to him that his country suffered a revolution which rendered his travel visa and passport useless under United States diplomatic status.  As a result the authorities have no right to detain Navorski, but at the same time cannot deport him back to Krakozhia. This leaves Viktor in a very sticky situation, as described in the movie, he fell through a very small crack in the system. The authorities have no choice but to leave him free in the travel lounge of the airport. As he waits, he encounters many characters and builds new friendships, and from there he crosses paths with flight stewardess Ameila Warren (played by Catherine Zeta-Jones).  It is with her that he reveals why Navorski is really in New York – to fulfil a dream left by his father.

The behind the scenes work of this movie is quite amazing. Instead of using a real airport to film in, Spielberg commissioned a custom-made set that is essentially a clone of a real airport. It has real life stores, and many other facilites that can be found in a real airport. It is so convincing that I often forget that the airport set is actually not any real airport. If you have a chance to watch the behind the scenes documentaries on the DVD, you’ll be surprised on how much work had been put into to make such an elaborate set. John Williams, a stablemate in movie soundtracks, produces a soundtrack that so much fits with the theme of the movie. The motifs given for Viktor reflect his personality and his background, and the same thing can be said about many cues in the film.

Plot wise, at the beginning the story focuses so much on Viktor getting lost and confused about his situation, without knowing any workable English. How Spielberg and his crew set this up was really good. As soon as Viktor realises what has happened, the camera pans out to a wide shot of the terminal. This sets the tone on how Viktor feels, and it did put some emotion into me. The storyline then progresses to how Viktor learns English slowly, meets up with various airport staff and befriends them, bumps into Amelia (who he falls in love with), and other events in the movie that I won’t spoil.  Although to me there some plot jumps and holes that are quite inconsistent, the storyline is very wholesome and deep and effectively tells Viktor’s story.

Overall, I recommend this movie to anyone who wants to see something different from Spielberg.

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