> Volume 6 > Number 23


Steven Spielberg

Tom Hanks
Catherine Zeta-Jones
Stanley Tucci
Kumar Pallana
Chi McBride
Diego Luna

Release: 18 Jun. 04

The Terminal


The greatest representation of Hell could possibly be an eternity stuck in John F. Kennedy Airport. The cluster of stores, fast food joints, and first class lounges weigh upon you as you wait for a plane, part of the reason that I take LaGuardia when I have a chance. I cannot stand spending a mere half-hour in the place, and if there were a delay, I can imagine that Iíd leave the airport to regain my senses.

The Terminal is no less debilitating. Its pandering personality formed by director Steven Spielberg admonishes the contrite humor that made Catch Me If You Can a reminder of the directorís easygoing side. The Terminal feels false because it never stops grasping for the sensation of being quick, aloof, and engaging without achieving that goal. The contrivance that gets the story rolling isnít bad -- there have already been two European films based on the real story of a man stuck in Charles de Gaulle Aťroport -- itís just that Spielberg is floundering as he attempts to make the whole thing heartwarming.

Part of the reason that Catch Me If You Can worked was that the charm of the scam was always fully present, making the saccharine of Spielbergís collected works momentarily disappear. Here itís front and center, with Tom Hanks primed as the type of ethnic everyman whose befuddled culture clash seems straight out of Robin Williamsí character closet. Look no further than the filmís third act explanation for Hanksí arrival to remind why Spielbergís technician status is unquestioned, but his storyteller is often derided. The excess baggage clipped onto this tale of a man caught between U.S. Customs and a war torn homeland takes a strong story and makes it an exercise in silliness

©2004, David Perry,, 4 June 2004