The Terminal

The Terminal (2004)
Paramount Home Video
Cast: Tom Hanks, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Chi McBride, Stanley Tucci, Diego Luna
Extras: Featurettes, Photo Gallery, Theatrical Trailer

Steven Spielberg directed some of the greatest movies in Hollywood history, but interestingly, some others of his films somehow dropped off the radar without much fanfare – often despite the fact that they are good movies. "The Terminal" is clearly one such candidate, a film that allows us to witness an inspired and masterful piece of dramatic comedy.

Starring Tom Hanks as Viktor Navorski the film tells the story of a man who finds himself in a very unexpected legal limbo. Traveling from Eastern Europe, Navorski, arrives at New York's JFK airport, only to find that during his flight, his home country has collapsed politically. After a coup de gras spawning a civil war, his country has lost its diplomatic status and all visa have been revoked.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 can he return to his homeland, because the country is under boycott and no flights are going there for the foreseeable future.

Airport officials place him in a hold state in the International terminal, hoping the situation may 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 the days drag on, he begins making it his home. Moving among the daily flow of commuters and travelers coming and going, 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 government 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 alongside with him how his home 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 of being eternally in transit. 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, unfazed by the inhumane tribulations he's being put through.

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 decent thing would have been to try and work with Navorski to find a solution, to become proactive and open doors and loopholes that may have helped him get his footing, but instead government officials take a hand-off approach and often treat him like a criminal despite that fact that he has done no wrong.

Ultimately, the funniest thing about this film maybe, is how Viktor Navorski puts them all in their place. By doing nothing at all, in essence.

Paramount Home Entertainment is presenting "The Terminal" in a 1080p high definition presentation on this Blu-Ray release that is expectedly clean and clear. Free of blemishes and immaculate in its reproduction of even the finest details, the transfer is wonderful to behold and offers strong colors and deep, solid blacks blacks firmly root the image. Oftentimes the scenes ask for absolutely natural lighting with the enormous glass sections inside the airport terminal and lots of artificial lighting, the image looks perfectly real. When things become a bit more effect-orient and atmospheric, the image looks accordingly graded, reproducing the picture without even a hint of a flaw.

The audio on the release comes as a DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio track, as well as Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in French, Spanish and Portuguese. All of them are wonderfully clean and clear with a good amount of "air" to them as to bring the film to life. Particularly the losslessly compressed DTS track brings the bustling of the airport to life with incredible transparency and fills all channels, creating an extraordinarily active and bustling sound field. Bass extension and frequency are very good, adding further weight to the presentation.

Unlike the bare-bones DVD release that has been in the market until now, this Blu-Ray version finally comes with a number of special features, consisting mainly of a series of featurettes that detail the production of the film.

"Booking the Flight," for example takes a look at the script and the story, while "Waiting for the Flight" gives you a closer look at the set, which reconstruct the JFK international terminal.

"Boarding" is filled with a look at the cast, particularly Tom Hanks as Victor and Catherine Zeta-Jones as Amelia. "Take Off" is a regular production featurette that takes you behind the scenes during the shooting of the film, and in "Landing" cast and crew members share their stories and memories about the making of the film.

The release is rounded out by the movie's theatrical trailer and a photo gallery.

"The Terminal" is a grossly overlooked film and I hope it will fare better on Blu-Ray Disc, finally getting the exposure and recognition it truly deserves. 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.