Tom Hanks Project – “The Terminal” Review

17 Jun


Another pleasant surprise in Hanks’ catalogue*. Somehow I’d never seen this gem, and didn’t even realize it was Spielberg, coming back for a third collaboration with Tom. Going in I knew that Tom was stuck in an airport and he had an odd accent, but didn’t know much else. In some ways there isn’t much more to it than that but, since it’s Hanks, you get a unique slice of humanity and it somehow makes the airport a fun, charming place to spend a couple hours**. Or in Viktor Navorski’s case, nine months.

*I had actually seen this one when it came out and loved it at the time, but I was worried that I’d given it too much credit, so I was very happy to be reminded that this is actually a really great movie.

**I wouldn’t go this far, but I will say that it humanizes all of the people who work at the airport, which I think is an incredible thing to remind us all of as we race back and forth.


I was skeptical when this movie began. When Hanks’ Viktor wanders around, crying, as he tries to decipher the news about his home country on the airport TVs, I wasn’t buying his accent and felt like I was settling into a schlocky slow movie. Why did I ever doubt Hanks*? It doesn’t take long for Viktor to learn enough English that the accent goes from mildly unbelievable to charming and then we get to watch for two hours as Viktor becomes the most beloved man to ever grace JFK airport.



Stanley Tucci starts off as a sympathetic character* who seems to feel bad that he can’t help Viktor, whose home country of Krakozhia is no longer recognized as a country when a coup happens during Viktor’s flight to NYC. He has no choice but to detain Viktor until the issue is resolved. He figures that Viktor will get bored and try to leave after a few days. He underestimates our guy, Viktor.

*Ugh, even looking at his face in the photo above makes me want to push him down some stairs. He’s such a shit in this movie.cart

After Viktor loses all his food vouchers in an unfortunate mix-up with the janitor, he starts spending his days returning carts at a quarter a pop and spends all his earnings at Burger King. crackers

When Tucci thwarts his cart scheme by hiring someone to return carts for the airport, Viktor endears himself to us by eating crackers with mustard and ketchup packets over eating other people’s leftovers. I told Caitlin I totally would eat leftovers before making cracker sandwiches. This does not surprise me.

big friends

Being so charming, Viktor starts making friends with everyone who works at the airport. The janitor, the guy who delivers the food to the planes, the security, the construction crews and even the little shops. He’s irresistible. Even if they won’t give him a job because he doesn’t have a phone, address or valid ID, Viktor is so determined he’ll wait by a pay phone all day just in case a store manager calls to offer him a job. Even if he really has to pee. A rare Hanks movie where he has to pee and doesn’t. 


One of Viktor’s buddies is the janitor who gets his kicks by creating wet spots on high foot traffic areas so he can watch people fall. There’s a lot of slapstick in this movie. When Catherine Zeta Jones falls and her heel breaks, of course Viktor is there to come to the rescue. She’s a flight attendant with a flighty personality*, who admits to falling for the wrong guys too fast and comes in and out of Viktor’s life as she’s constantly flying in and out of JFK. And while their mutual interest helps drive the movie, as Spielberg describes it, they fall in like, not in love.

*Nice one.


The movie is more about the friendships Viktor makes with everyone else in the airport. There’s the customs agent who waits with her red stamp every day as Vik comes without the proper paperwork to get processed. She appreciates the effort and Viktor plays matchmaker for her with another of his friends.


Viktor does what he has to do to get by, showering in the sink and getting a job working in construction at the airport while waiting to get out. In the meantime, he manages to experience America one interaction at a time, finding his place in this weird world of an airport terminal. It’s way more fun than two hours in an airport should be. 

Laugh Out Loud: Caitlin: 46 Zack: 41 It was a tad slapsticky, but it worked for me. I laughed at a lot of sight gags and cute moments throughout. I laughed pretty much throughout the whole film, I think primarily because watching Tom Hanks do his sort of Hanksian comedic thing with an accent made it that much more amusing.

Comedy: Zack: 8 Caitlin: 8.8  A B- comedy score feels right. Definitely enough laughs to make a re-watch fun and I enjoyed myself throughout. I’d take it further than that — I really don’t remember a ten minute period that went without a laugh. Although there was a bit of slapstick, a lot of it was just adorable, situational stuff.

zeta together

Romantic Interest: Caitlin: 6 Zack: 7 They had good chemistry, but ultimately you always know it isn’t going to work out and you don’t really want it to. She’s so all over the place, literally and figuratively and he’s going to go back to his country and imagining a life for them together just doesn’t add up. Still, they play off each other well and have a cute flirtation. I agree with everything Zack said, but I took it down a level because, particularly when you look at the really sweet story between Diego Luna and Zoe Saldana (the food guy and the customs gal), you can see that Viktor and the flight attendant just aren’t meant to be. You never really root for them to be with each other — you just root for them.

Eye Cover/Crying: Both: Zero There just isn’t much to cry or shield your eyes from. The most violence is slipping on a wet floor and the saddest part is early on when Viktor doesn’t have a home to go back to, but it didn’t move us to tears. almost eye-covered during a scene with a Russian kid who was trying to get medicine back to his dying father because I couldn’t remember what went down, but I never did and I didn’t need to.


Hanks: Caitlin: 9.3 Zack: 9.3 I can’t imagine liking this movie with anyone else in the lead. I really enjoyed what Tom brought to the role. His accent finds the right mark, and he adds his usual charm and lovability to it and brings Viktor to life. I’d always want to go to the airport if there was a Viktor there to visit with. I totally agree. I think one of the most fun aspects of the movie is watching Viktor figure out how to survive — it’s like a much, much tamer Cast Away. But there’s still a companion object that you’re not fully sure of until near the end (see the above photo with the Planters can).

Movie: Caitlin: 9.2 Zack: 8.9 I liked it so much I went to the used DVD store and bought the three-disc version with the soundtrack by John Williams and an extra disc of extras. I learned about how they built an entire terminal soundstage set and that the screenwriter lived in airports for days at a time to get the details right. It all paid off. This is a sweet little movie that we will re-watch often. This is definitely a comforting sick-movie kind of film, one with an endearing message, a nice “win” at the end and lovable characters. Spielberg crafted something lovable out of somewhere that many of us have come to really dislike, and for that, I salute him.


3 Responses to “Tom Hanks Project – “The Terminal” Review”

  1. tapeparade September 18, 2015 at 1:14 am #

    I love this film! I initially watched it for Diego Luna who was my no 1 teenage crush but it’s such a sweet and charming film, one of the ones me and my housemates whack it on whenever somebody’s feeling ill and we’re having a night in. x

  2. tapeparade September 18, 2015 at 1:14 am #

    Also, how did I miss your review on this…


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