Ebert:1/2 Rolling Stone: TV Guide:

Warning, minor plot points revealed!

The Terminal is an unusual summer film.  It really should have been released later in the year around November.  The reviews probably would have been better and audiences more receptive to the tale.  It is a warm, fuzzy, heartwarming story that will appeal primarily to adults.  It's funny but not Dodgeball-funny.  It's a drama but more in the way Hanks's film Castaway was a drama.  In fact Castaway is a good film to use as a comparison piece.  If you liked Castaway you will like The Terminal.  

Once again, Lord Spielberg is directing Hanks in another character rich performance.  Although, unlike previous Hanks-Spielberg collaborations, this one has more in common with Tom Hanks-Robert Zemeckis productions like Forrest Gump and the above mentioned Castaway.

The story is inspired by a real life Iranian refugee who lived for a time in a Paris airport due to similar circumstances.  Viktor Navorski is a citizen of Krakozia a country that has been overthrown in a coup while he was in transit to New York.  Upon arriving he finds that his passport is void and he is for the moment a man without a country.  As a result he is unable to enter the United States and cannot return to his country.  The airport administrator assumes that Viktor's situation will clear up in a day or two so he instructs him to wait in the terminal.  This wait soon goes beyond days, stretches into weeks, and then months.  During this time Viktor assimilates as best he can to his new environment.  Remarkably well actually.  He's a very existentialist character.  He figures out how to acquire food, gets a good paying job, helps various airport personnel with their own little life situations, begins a relationship with an airline stewardess, and ultimately becomes a sort of Saint.  

In some ways the film also reminded me a little of Groundhog Day.  The way over time he learns English, makes a home for himself and little by little gathers the loyalty of those around him.  

There are no big special effects in the movie but I have read that the set was actually a grand achievement in and of itself.  The set designers actually constructed a realistic giant working airport terminal and the result is a set that is really just another one of the characters in the film.  

There are some surprises to the story as well.  I won't spoil anything here but some of the situations don't follow a standard Hollywood playbook and it is perhaps these real-to-life situations that help the somewhat unbelievable premise work.  

The actors are all excellent as would be expected by any Spielberg cast.  Hanks is perfect as always and can add another Oscar caliber performance to his list of characters.  Catherine Zeta-Jones is beautiful and it is perhaps that beauty that makes her character's situation a little less than believable.  Stanley Tucci is excellent as Frank Dixon, the airport administrator who soon finds Viktor to be the only unknown in his perfectly balanced equation.  Other airport employees are played by Chi McBride, Diego Luna, and Zoe Saldana.  Their characters offer perfect support to Viktor.  And finally, 85 year old Kumar Pallana is awesome as terminal janitor Gupta Rajan.  I first noticed him as Pagoda in The Royal Tenenbaums but he also had small roles in Rushmore and Bottle Rocket.

The Terminal is a good film.  I recommend it and I liked it.  It's the "feel-good" film of the summer.  So if you want to take a break from all the action and special effects this would be one worth seeing.