Academy Award winning director Steven Spielberg teams up with two-time Academy Award winner Tom Hanks and Oscar winner Catherine Zeta-Jones (Chicago) 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.
I remember seeing Steven Spielberg's 'The Terminal' ten years ago when it opened in theaters, but not much else comes to mind when I put thought into it. I recall thinking that it was an okay movie – not bad, but nothing special – but not much else. Watching it now, perhaps because I'm a little older, a little wiser, a little more educated in film and little more cynical, I fell in pure love with it. It contains that characteristics of the simple, upbeat and heartwarming films of old that my elders always raved about when I was a kid. With my newer set of eyes, I found it to be optimistically refreshing.
Tom Hanks leads 'The Terminal' as Viktor Navorski, a simple man from the fictional nation of Krakozhia who has traveled to the United States with a mission. After arriving at JFK airport in New York City, he's detained by customs for a very odd and rare reason. While in-air, a military coup occurred in Krakozhia that overthrew the nation's leadership. With the United States no longer able to honor the visa that Viktor was granted, he's stuck waiting. He cannot enter the US because the nation of his passport no longer exists and he cannot return home because he's not technically a man of that warring nation. The acting Customs Field Commissioner (Stanley Tucci) grants Viktor access to the international terminal as a place to wait it out, but that's it. Viktor must remain in the terminal, which is basically a large space that resembles nothing more than a mall, for an undetermined amount of time.
The idea of watching a man wait for news isn't intriguing or enticing, but through Hanks' performance/character and a happy little screenplay, 'The Terminal' is the opposite of what you might expect. The concept sounds boring, uneventful, and dry, but the movie itself is the opposite. 'The Terminal' features a nice group of supporting characters that offer different chapters, or "episodes," in Viktor's waiting period. With this lively bunch – including Catherine Ceta-Jones, Zoe Saldana, Diego Luna and Chi McBride – we watch the kind and gentle stranger-in-an-unwelcoming-land affect lives in a very positive way.
I find two little problems in 'The Terminal.' The first is the lack of a villain. Tucci plays the closest thing to a villain, but even then he's only doing his job. His actions are justified. He's not keeping Viktor in the terminal out of spite or hatred. It's the law. And when he tries setting Viktor up for failure, he's not doing it out of any personal vendetta. He does it to pass Viktor's unusual scenario off on someone else, to make Viktor someone else's "problem."
The second little fault that I find in 'The Terminal' is in the romantic subplot with Zeta-Jones. The two have chemistry and I enjoy watching them together, but her flight attendant character, Amelia, is, for lack of a better word, flighty. Other than being an elegant and attractive woman, I don't see why Viktor would have any interest in her. He knows that she rendezvous in New York with a married man and that she's in high demand with men all over the world, yet he still pursues her. Being an honest, good man, I don't believe that he'd genuinely love or pursue her. He's not that naïve - but aside from those two issues I take with 'The Terminal,' I love it.
If it's been ten years since you, like me, saw 'The Terminal,' I highly recommend giving it another shot now that it's on Blu-ray. After re-watching it, I now see it as one of Steven Spielberg's most underrated and under-appreciated films. 'The Terminal' is just about as charming as they come.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Paramount has delivered 'The Terminal' nicely on a BD-50 disc that's housed in a single-disc blue eco-Elite keepcase. Nothing plays before the clip- and music-filled main menu but a forced Paramount vanity reel.
'The Terminal' has been given a very strong 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode that presents the film in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Aside from there being a fluctuating amount of grain, ranging from light to heavy, this transfer is consistently impressive.
A few years back there was a large push to convert a bunch of Spielberg's bigger films to HD. All of those releases hit shelves around the same time – including 'Minority Report,' 'War of the Worlds' and 'Saving Private Ryan' – and seemed to have stickers on the Blu-ray packaging that announced "director approved" transfers. 'The Terminal' doesn't carry this same quality-ensuring label, but this Blu-ray's quality is no less great than those other titles.
From beginning to end, there's a perfect cleanliness about 'The Terminal.' I didn't notice a single spec of debris, scratch or line. The clarity is pristine, which allows for a lot more fine details to make themselves apparent that I expected from this aging film. Aside from some scenes intentionally be shot with softer focus, the amount of visible details – many of which are subtle details – are fantastic. Unless softly shot, you'll see pores on Hanks' face, specks of barely-lifted stubble hairs and textures in clothing.
The film opens with Viktor nearing and passing through Customs. Anyone who's crossed through there knows that Customs is a cold and unwelcoming place. The opening palette matches that feeling - cold and unpleasant - but once Viktor gets to the terminal, it all changes. The set bursts to life with lively colors. From then on, the palette is full of bright and vibrant primaries. The whites, of which there are many, can become so strong that they're blinding.
'The Terminal' is yet another striking Spielberg catalog title.
'The Terminal' features a lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track that's just as impressive as its video transfer. After a DreamWorks vanity reel, the film kicks off with a black screen while an airplane can be heard flying overhead, coming in for a landing. That sound seamlessly images from the rear center of the theater space to the front center, sounding exactly as it would if a plane passed over head. From this moment on, the sound is remarkable.
Cut to the Customs waiting lines. I've noticed that Spielberg likes to use loads of dialog to create chaotic sensations. 'The Terminal' uses this technique for madness and intensity while waiting to speak to a Customs agent. On the Blu-ray, during this moment, all speakers are lit up with chatter and banter in countless languages. The vocals and effects are typically mixed strongly in this fashion. Fun little background effects create environment-enhancing effects to listen to while watching the film. For example, there are many occasions where planes can be heard randomly taking off and landing in the distance. We never see these planes, but they add to the reality of the setting.
Adding a nice amount of dynamics to 'The Terminal' is yet another great score by John Williams. Much like the movie itself, I realized how underrated the clarinet-based score is while revisiting the film. It's mixed in such a way that makes great use of all channels. The conveyed tone and feel really brings Viktor's character to life.
Steven Spielberg's catalog titles have a reputation for featuring fantastic Blu-ray transfers. Even though it doesn't don the "director approved" sticker on the packaging, 'The Terminal' Blu-ray is no exception. The movie itself is an under-appreciated, charming, and likeable good time. The video quality is strong and the audio is even stronger. All of the DVD's special features have been brought over to the Blu-ray, even if only in standard definition, and a large photo gallery and two trailers are presented in high-def. I wasn't originally impressed with 'The Terminal' when I saw it in theaters, but I fell in love with it while revisiting it on Blu-ray. If you've long-forgetten about it too, now that there's a great HD version available, I highly recommend giving it another viewing.