The Terminal

The Terminal (2004)
Dreamworks Home Entertainment
Cast: Tom Hanks, Catherine Zeta-Jones

Without a lot of fanfare, Steven Spielberg’s "The Terminal" made it in to theaters earlier this week and disappeared just as quietly. Now that it is out on DVD hopefully more people will have the chance to witness and experience this masterful piece of dramatic comedy.

Starring Tom Hanks as Viktor Navorski the film tells the story of a man who finds himself in a legal limbo all of a sudden. Coming from Eastern Europe, Navorski, arrives at New York’s JFK airport, only to fnd that during his flight, his country has collapsed. After a coup de gras spawning a civil war his country has lost its diplomatic status and all visa have been revoked. As a result Navorski can neither enter the United States, nor return to his homeland, as no flights are going back home for the time being.
Airport officials place him in a hold state in the International terminal, hoping the situation my resolve itself quickly either by the civil war settling or by Navorski attempting to enter the US illegally – in which case they would, of course arrest him.
Virtually unable to speak the language Navorski is now stuck inside the airport and as time drags on he begins making it his home. Among the daily hectic of commuters and travelers he manages to procure money to feed himself and makes friends among the airport employees. With every day, week and month that passes, Navorski becomes more and more of an institution at JFK and officials get increasingly desperate to get rid of him one way or another.

"The Terminal" is a great showcase for Tom Hanks yet again as the part puts him through the paces. With a thick – and very convincing – accent he fumbles his way through the English language making us smile and laugh. Then there are times where he almost makes us cry as we witness with him how his country is torn apart. Then we smile again as our sympathy for him grows as he rises to the occasion and makes the best of his situation. When he falls in love with a flight attendant played by Catherine Zeta-Jones we want him so much to succeed and be happy as by then it is clear that Viktor Navorski is one of the sweetest – and most patient – people alive.

Apart from being comic, of course, the film also has undertones that illustrate just how fragile our existences are a times, and how bureaucratic bean-counters can easily make your life a living hell, often without understanding the full impact of their textbook-decisions or any common sense in applying them. The funniest thing about this film maybe, is how Viktor Navorski pays them all back. By doing nothing at all, in essence.

Dreamworks Home Entertainment is presenting "The Terminal" in a <$PS,widescreen> presentation on this DVD in the movie’s original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The image is immaculate. No blemishes, no grain, no edge-enhancement, no bleeding, no nothing. It is simply perfect with strong colors and deep, solid blacks. When the scenes ask for absolutely natural lighting, the image looks natural and when things become a bit more effective, the image looks accordingly graded. The compression is without flaws, making "The Terminal" a beauty to behold.

The audio on the release comes as a <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> track as well as a <$DTS,DTS> 5.1 track. Both of them are wonderfully clean and clear with a good amount of "air" to them as to bring the film to life. The bustling of the airport fills all channels, creating an extraordinarily active and bustling sound field that still feels very clear and transparent. Bass extension and frequency are very good, adding to the presentation.

No extras are provided on this disc, but I hear Dreamworks is also selling a 3-disc Collector’s Edition of the film including a bonus disc and the soundtrack CD. Of course, they don’t give these versions to reviewers for fear one could actually enjoy it. 🙂

"The Terminal" was grossly overlooked in theaters and I hope it will fare much better on DVD. It is a great film with which Steven Spielberg proves once again that he’s on top of his craft as a storyteller. The breadth of emotions we go through with the help of Tom Hanks’ brilliant performance, the marvelous use of the airport as a backdrop, the photography and the eloquent visual language Spielberg uses yet again, all make "The Terminal" a film to remember.