The Terminal

By Mark Ramsey | 2004/06/14

Please fasten your seatbelt. And make sure your seatback is in its full and upright position.

A movie set almost entirely in an airline terminal is hardly the stuff of cinematic greatness – unless your star is Tom Hanks and your director is Steven Spielberg.

Who hasn’t been stuck at JFK and been fortunate enough to meet kindly maintenance folk, friendly immigration agents, happy-go-lucky fast food servers, and jovial cart drivers?

No one who has ever been stuck at JFK, that’s who!

Who’s heading the Port Authority now, Mandy Moore? We must be flying Frank Capra Airways because every time a bell rings, Tom Hanks gets an Oscar.

When God designed Hell JFK International was the model. You know The Terminal is shot on a set instead of in the real JFK because nobody in this movie is sharing a walkway with unaccompanied feces.

terminal_rockettes.jpgTom Hanks is a foreign national who speaks almost no English and hails from the Eastern European state of Krakozhia, not to be confused with the birthplace of Courtney Love, Krakwhorezhia.

Krakozhia isn’t real, of course, unless the ethnic Kraks have successfully founded a sovereign nation.

Tom can’t speak the lingo, so he teaches himself English by reading the news ticker on CNN. He learns the language all right, despite an annoying habit of moving rapidly from right to left across the bottom of your visual field.

For various reasons Tom gets stuck in the terminal. He can go anywhere he likes – as long as it’s within sight of a store that sells a 16 oz. bottled water for $3.49.

He can’t get into the US, and he can’t go home. So he stays there.

At Gate 67.

For months.

Ah, the glamour of air travel! Only in a terminal is Burger King food fit for royalty. Only in the food court of public opinion does a Cinnabon rule. Only in an airport can Tom subsist on a triple-decker sandwich of crackers, ketchup, and mustard – thank you, Subway’s new Atkins menu! Only on a concourse can a Sbarro franchise boast: “When it’s got to be good enough to be between Gates 16 and 17.”

Stanley Tucci is a terribly talented actor with a terribly big bald head. “Not since my family crashed their saucer in Roswell have I played a role in aviation,” said Stanley. Added Spielberg, “Stanley has poked and anally prodded this role for all it’s worth.”


Catherine Zeta-Jones is a flight attendant who has thoroughly mastered that gate-to-gate strut which screams “Out of my way, rube, I’m a server of the skies!”

Catherine knows exactly where a croissant was invented – which is useful knowledge as long as you look like Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Catherine’s flight attendant is the kind of woman who can get anybody she wants and nobody she deserves. “I just keep ingesting these poisonous men until it makes me sick,” she says before spitting up a fur-ball resembling Michael Douglas. She loses her boyfriend, Michael Nouri, and tries to cry, but nobody has shed a tear over Michael Nouri since Flashdance and Catherine is not about to start now.

Look for some great performances in The Terminal, including an outrageously funny supporting turn by Kumar Pallana, best known from the cult classic Bottle Rocket.

Everyone here is stuck, you see. In a terminal building. At the edge of love. At the threshold of freedom. At the brink of a promise not yet fulfilled. Gate 67 goes by many names. And everyone waits. Some for hours, some for months, some for a lifetime.

The Terminal is a sweet, funny fable for Father’s Day that will wrap you tight around its manipulative little finger, and you’ll love every minute. It glides to a perfect landing, and so far it’s my favorite movie of the year.

Maybe your seat cushion can serve as a flotation device, but after The Terminal your heart will do the floating.

On air.

Photos Copyright ©2004 DreamWorks SKG


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