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Steven Spielberg
Tom Hanks, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Stanley Tucci, Chi McBride, Diego Luna, Barry Shabaka Henley, Kumar Pallana, Zoe Saldana
Writing Credits:
Andrew Niccol, Sacha Gervasi, Jeff Nathanson

Life is waiting.

Academy Award-winning director Steven Spielberg teams up with two-time Academy Award winner Tom Hanks and Oscar winner Catherine Zeta-Jones for this critically acclaimed comedy. After arriving at New York’s JFK airport, Viktor Navorski (Hanks) gets unwittingly caught in bureaucratic glitches that make it impossible for him to return to his home country or enter the U.S. Now, caught up in the richly complex and amusing world inside the airport, Viktor makes friends, gets a job, finds romance and ultimately discovers America itself.

Box Office:
$60 million.
Opening Weekend
$19.053 million on 2811 screens.
Domestic Gross
$77.032 million.

Rated PG-13

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
English Dolby 2.0
French Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 128 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 11/23/2004

• “Booking the Flight: The Script, The Story” Featurette
• “Waiting for the Flight: Building The Terminal” Featurette
• “Boarding: The People of The Terminal” Featurette
• “Take Off: Making The Terminal” Featurette
• “In Flight Service: The Music of The Terminal” Featurette
• “Landing: Airport Stories” Featurette
• Cast
• Filmmakers
• Production Notes
• Photo Gallery

• Soundtrack CD


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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The Terminal: 3 Disc Collector's Set (2004)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 6, 2004)

Look at Tom Hanks’ résumé and you’ll find that he appeared in 13 movies that earned $100 million or more. Examine Steven Spielberg’s body of work and you’ll discover 13 flicks that took in $100 million or more. When they worked together in 1998’s Saving Private Ryan, the result yanked in $216 million. Their partnership in 2002’s Catch Me If You Can brought in $164 million.

Pair them again in 2004’s The Terminal and add a star like Catherine Zeta-Jones and what do you get? Not much at the box office, apparently. Despite all the talent behind the flick, Terminal managed to snag a less-than-inspiring $77 million.

Actually, for a quiet comedy/drama about a guy stuck in an airport, that’s a darned good gross. It’s simply the expectations that come with a Hanks/Spielberg partnership that make it look lackluster. While not among the best efforts by any of those involved, The Terminal presents a consistently amusing and entertaining piece of work.

At the start of the flick, we meet Viktor Navorski (Tom Hanks), a citizen of the (fictitious) Eastern European country Krakozhia. We soon learn that a military coup occurred there while he was en route to New York, and the US government does not yet recognize the new leadership. JFK Airport Customs Director Frank Dixon tries to explain to Viktor - who speaks virtually no English - that he’s currently a “citizen of nowhere” and can’t leave airport property until some form of diplomatic recognition takes place.

This restricts Viktor to the international travel lounge, where he tries to make the best of things. Dixon states this matter should be resolved soon, but no quick fix occurs. Before long, Viktor’s presence irritates Dixon; he wants the displaced foreigner to leave the airport so he’ll become someone else’s problem. Viktor steadfastly refuses to break the rules and he remains at JFK.

A few running threads emerge as Viktor’s stay extends into days, weeks and months. Dixon receives support to get a promotion to field commissioner, but he has to pass an inspection. Dixon tries to ensure that Viktor can’t get money to eat, which will then force the foreigner to leave. However, catering truck driver Enrique Cruz (Diego Luna) offers Viktor all the food he can eat if he’ll help Enrique win over customs officer Torres (Zoë Saldana). Viktor does so, and he also eventually finds work elsewhere in the airport when his carpentry skills emerge.

Another major thread opens when Viktor meets flight attendant Amelia Warren (Zeta-Jones). The two occasionally bump into each other, and some minor romantic sparks develop, though these are complicated since Amelia’s involved with a married man. The film follows all of Viktor’s various interpersonal relationships as well as Dixon’s attempts to rid himself of his burden.

If nothing else, The Terminal enjoys a great concept. Yeah, it stretches credulity to believe that somehow a person would get stuck in Viktor’s situation, but we buy into recreated dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, so I’ll let the lack of probable reality slide. The idea is clever and fun and theoretically could create an intriguing movie.

For the most part, the film allows the concept to blossom, though as was the case with Catch Me If You Can, Spielberg shows a weakness when it comes to running time. 128 minutes seems awfully long for such a simple tale, and the flick drags at times. Part of the problem stems from the abundance of subplots. Terminal digs into more than it can chew, and that leads to inconsistent storytelling.

Characters and stories come and go at a leisurely pace. A lot of time passes, but we don’t get a great feel for that, as there isn’t much to mark the extended nature of Viktor’s stay. Too many elements receive too little exposition. For example, Cruz and Torres eventually get engaged, but it’s not clear if they’ve ever been out on a date. Head-scratching moments pop up too frequently in the film, and they cause confusion.

On the other hand, the actors all fare well. Hanks proves especially winning as Viktor. Honestly, I worried he’d be little more than a big screen “Balki” from TV’s Perfect Strangers - a cute, cuddly little phony foreigner played simply for laughs. A little of that tone emerges in Viktor, and the film definitely keeps things light. However, Hanks brings real heart and depth to the role. The character remains limited, but Hanks fleshes him out nicely.

One other related pitfall connected to the exceedingly high potential for cutesy moments. Again, some of these occur, but they pass without too much fuss, and most of the flick stays on the “charming” side of the equation. The film rarely seems too cloying or contrived, though some of the bits with Amelia get a bit mawkish.

Despite some flaws, I enjoyed The Terminal. It gets tiresome toward the end and threatens never to conclude, and inconsistent storytelling renders it less involving than I’d like. Nonetheless, it presents a clever premise with some amusing situations and good performances. It’s nothing special but it remains likable.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus B

The Terminal appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Parts of Terminal looked very good, but inconsistencies made it a less than stellar picture.

Sharpness created most of the concerns. Much of the movie appeared accurate and well-defined, but exceptions definitely occurred. More than a few shots came across as somewhat soft and vaguely delineated. Jagged edges and shimmering created no concerns, but some mild edge enhancement showed up at times. As for print flaws, the movie seemed clean.

Terminal presented a pretty flat palette. A lot of the film came in drab shades of green and blue to match the airport interiors. In fact, those shades dominated so much that I wondered if Spielberg thought he was shooting a Matrix sequel. The colors lacked much vivacity, but then again, they weren’t supposed to look much more than murky. They succeeded, so despite the lackluster nature of the hues, I can’t complain. Black levels came across as acceptably deep and dense but didn’t seem exceptional, and the same went for shadow detail. Low-light situations presented fairly clear and accurately depicted images but they didn’t look tremendously concise. Overall, the visuals of The Terminal seemed acceptable as a whole, but I did think the picture looked somewhat inconsistent.

Like many DreamWorks DVDs, The Terminal offered both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. The pair seemed very similar to me. I detected no substantial differences between the pair.

Not one of the more ambitious soundtracks for a Spielberg flick, the mix displayed a pretty heavy emphasis toward the front speakers. Those channels offered solid stereo presentation for music and also spread out effects well. Mostly the set tended toward general ambience that reflected the situations. It came to life more significantly during a smattering of louder sequences, especially when aircraft became involved. Not a lot happened in the surrounds, but they added a decent feeling of place to the film.

Audio quality appeared fine but unexceptional. Speech came across as natural and distinct. I noticed no problems related to intelligibility or edginess. Music demonstrated good bounce and smoothness, and also showed nice dynamics. Effects were accurate and detailed, and they also displayed fine bass response; low-end was rich and tight. Ultimately, the audio of The Terminal didn’t do much to impress, but it worked fine for the material.

This two-DVD release of The Terminal finds all its supplements on its second disc. Most of the information comes to us via a series of six featurettes. We start with the eight-minute and seven-second Booking the Flight: The Script, The Story. It and its successors use movie clips, behind the scenes elements, and interviews. We hear from director Steven Spielberg, writers Jeff Nathanson and Sacha Gervasi, and producers Walter F. Parkes and Laurie MacDonald. We find out what attracted Spielberg to the project, research, themes of the story, and its themes. Despite some interesting moments, the featurette feels a bit too superficial to offer a great look at the subjects.

After this comes Waiting for the Flight: Building The Terminal. It fills 12 minutes and 21 seconds as we hear from Spielberg and production designer Alex McDowell. They discuss the design and construction of the movie’s enormous airport set. Aided by many good shots of the location, this piece gives us a fine look at the subject. We get a nice tour of the set and find out many of its inspirations.

Now we head to Boarding: The People of The Terminal. This piece splits into three smaller programs: “Tom Hanks Is ‘Viktor’” (7:40), “Catherine Zeta-Jones Is ‘Amelia’” (8:42), and “Viktor’s World” (15:31). We find notes from Spielberg, Hanks, Zeta-Jones, Stanley Tucci, Barry Shabaka Henley, Diego Luna, Zoë Saldana, Kumar Pallana, and Chi McBride. They discuss their characters and their approaches to the roles. Some good notes pop up, especially when we hear about the casting of Zeta-Jones, but a lot of the time we just get basic character descriptions. These reiterate information we already know from the movie and make “People” only sporadically useful.

Up next we get Take Off: Making The Terminal, a 17-minute and 15-second program. It presents information from Spielberg, Hanks, Zeta-Jones, Parkes, Henley, Gervasi, McDowell, Tucci, Luna, director of photography Janusz Kaminski, costume designer Mary Zophres, and executive producer Patricia Whitcher. We learn about photography and color design, costumes, visual effects, and the movie’s pacing. Like all the other programs, this one suffers from a generally fluffy tone; there’s lots of happy talk. Nonetheless, it tosses out a fair amount of compelling material about some of the elements. It’s not great, but it’s moderately useful.

During five-minute and 55-second In Flight Service: The Music of The Terminal, we find notes from Spielberg and composer John Williams. They chat about the movie’s score and what was intended with its themes. Williams elaborates well on his influences and goals in this tight program.

For the final featurette, we get Landing: Airport Stories. It goes for five minutes and 33 seconds with information from Spielberg, Zeta-Jones, McDowell, Kaminski, Williams, and Hanks. They chat about unusual airport experiences, or the lack thereof in the case of Spielberg, who states he never had anything out of the ordinary occur. It’s a decent little piece, though none of the stories are terribly compelling.

Cast includes short bios for actors Tom Hanks, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Stanley Tucci, Chi McBride, Diego Luna, Barry Shabaka Henley, Kumar Pallana, and Zoë Saldana. Filmmakers features entries for director Steven Spielberg, screenwriters Jeff Nathanson and Sacha Gervasi, producers Walter F. Parkes and Laurie MacDonald, executive producers Patricia Whitcher and Jason Hoffs, director of photography Janusz Kaminski, production designer Alex McDowell, editor Michael Kahn, costume designer Mary Zophres, and composer John Williams. All of these provide rudimentary discussions of the participants, though the entry for Pallana is quite interesting.

In the Photo Gallery we see 59 shots from the set and the film. It’s a bland collection of pictures. Finally, we find some Production Notes. These offer a reasonably good examination of the basic issues.

One positive element of this DVD: all of the video extras come with subtitles. These appear in English, French, and Spanish. One surprising negative: unless I missed it, we don’t find the trailer for Terminal. Along with Catch Me If You Can, this is the only DVD for a Spielberg film that doesn’t feature that flick’s trailer.

This version of The Terminal also comes with the film’s soundtrack CD. Unfortunately, my review copy came without that platter, so I can’t comment on it other than to mention its presence.

At this point in his career, I don’t know if Steven Spielberg has it in him to make a truly great movie. Saving Private Ryan is as close as he’s come in a long time, and it has its flaws. The Terminal stands as a representative of the modern Spielberg: it has enough charms to make it enjoyable, but it shows too many problems to rise above “pretty good” status. The DVD presents similarly fair but unexceptional picture and audio plus a lackluster roster of extras. There’s enough here to merit a rental but I can’t endorse The Terminal in a more enthusiastic manner.

Note that you can buy The Terminal either in the three-disc version detailed here or in a single-DVD edition. The latter includes none of this one’s extras but comes with a list price 10 lower than that of the Collector’s Set.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.1176 Stars Number of Votes: 17
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