The Terminal

The Terminal on Blu-ray

The guy should have just crossed from Mexico…

Or maybe you could look at it as Cast Away set in an airport.

Hot on the Blu-ray heels of the excellent Amistad comes this much more minor and less successful Spielberg film about a man without a country who's stuck in an airport terminal while the world changes around him.

Viktor Navorski (Tom Hanks, in a real tour de force performance) is from a fictional eastern European country. He flew into the United States on a mission we don't learn much about until much later in the film, but it's a personal odyssey on which he finds himself - but in a classic case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, he gets off his plane at JFK airport in New York only to find that since he got on the plane his country has undergone an upheaval that leaves him a person without a homeland.

The step in the bureaucrats who can't secure the southern borders, but who - since Viktor has no homeland any more (at least temporarily, but we don't know that at the time) - won't let him set foot on U.S. territory outside the airport terminal building. It's a stupid and silly case of bureacratic overreach and oversight, but you know how bureaucrats are - and the guys here are very much in CYA mode for a variety of reasons.

But Viktor is nothing if not resourceful and he's also a very decent man. At the beginning he speaks virtually no English (though he learns it over the course of the movie) and he loses the food vouchers the bureaucrats give him, which leaves him basically SOL at JFK. Yet he makes friends, he adapts a place to stay, and of course in the end he not only gets out of the terminal, he completes his mission to the Big Apple.

His nemesis is Frank Dixon (Stanley Tucci), of Customs and Border Protection, who at least has seen that Viktor has a beeper so he can be kept up to date if his status changes. He also gives him a telephone calling card, an ID badge, and those aforementioned food vouchers. He's apparently all set for a short stay - hours hopefully - but it looks as if his new home might stay his new home for the rest of his life as the situation drags on. So Viktor has to cope, which he does quite well, thank you.

He earns some money by returning airport carts to their storage racks and retrieving the change it costs to use them. He also makes friends with some of the airport's blue collar workers and even plays a bit of a matchmaker while also starting a bit of a relationship with a stewardess (Catherine Zeta-Jones, who is mostly wasted here) searching for her soulmate.

The Terminal didn't really turn our crank when we watched it, though there's a nagging feeling that we should give it another chance because Spielberg's stuff often grows on you. But it has its moments and, if nothing else, is worth seeing for Hanks' outstanding performance. If it weren't Hanks' face on Viktor, you'd forget that it's just an actor - high praise indeed.

The Terminal Blu-ray features a good 1080p transfer that probably won't be used to show off home theater systems but which is enjoyable and eminently watchable. There's a nice layer or filmic grain, colors are nicely saturated and fine detail is terrific.

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack is effective, and surrounds you with the sounds and ambiance of the airport terminal. Your speakers won't get a real workout, but this isn't that type of film.

There is quite  a good selection of extras, too, though they're mostly in standard definition. There's a short look at the story and script and the film's style, another look at the construction of the big set, one that deals with the various characters, and a relatively short "making of" feature as well as another welcome look at the great John Williams, who is along for yet another Spielberg collaboration. His score here is typically great, though a tad reminiscent of Catch me if you Can.

You also get a photo gallery and trailers.

The Terminal isn't likely to go down as one of Steven Spielberg's greatest hits, and we didn't really find ourselves pulled into it - though as mentioned we'll probably give it another chance down the road. But it's worth seeing if only for Tom Hanks' outstanding performance.

Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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