The Terminal Movie: Steven Spielberg’s Rare Comedy Movie Rediscovered!
I consider it a happy accident that I came across this movie titled ‘The Terminal’ (2004) directed by Steven Spielberg on a streaming platform. My surprise was immeasurable when I saw the genre written in the details of the movie-comedy! Well, it doesn’t have to be just my ignorance of this great filmmaker; because in most Spielberg biographies or filmography, said film is never featured or talked about even though the film was a commercial success. ‘The Terminal’ tells the charming story of a character named Viktor Navorski from Eastern Europe (indicating the Russian Republic) who arrives at New York’s John F Kennedy Airport on a private mission only to find out that, in the meantime, his home country (fictional) Kakrojhia had suffered a military coup and a new government had taken office. Since the US had not yet recognized the new government, Viktor’s passport had become invalid and the airport supervisor took all his documents, including his passport, refusing to allow him to enter New York City or return to New York. home. Viktor Navorski, played by none other than the greatest of actors Tom Hanks, doesn’t speak much English and goes through a series of hilarious misadventures during his nine-month stay at the terminal. We’ll come back to the movie a bit later.
Steven Spielberg had become a household name in the US after his blockbuster ‘Jaws’ in 1975; and if he was not already a household name in most other countries like India, his ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ in 1977, ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ in 1981, ‘ET the Extra-Terrestrial’ in 1982, his creation of the the 1984 ‘Indiana Jones’ franchise and his two major productions ‘Jurassic Park’ and 1993’s ‘Schindler’s List’ have made him more than that, almost a living legend of world cinema. Spielberg is said to be the most commercially successful Hollywood director to date, with nearly all of his films achieving blockbuster status, critical acclaim, and Academy Award nominations and awards. He has won three Oscars, two of them for Best Director for ‘Schindler’s List’ and ‘Saving Private Ryan’ (1998) and an Oscar for Best Film for ‘Schindler’s List’, as well as 7 nominations for Best Director. His films have garnered an incredible 133 Academy Award nominations and 34 Oscars in various categories, in addition to BAFTA and Golden Globe Awards. His other major awards include the Cecil B DeMille Award and the AFI Life Achievement Award. . Steven Spielberg at 74 years of age has not yet retired and continues to make movies taking temporary breaks at times.
Watching ‘Jaws’ and ‘Jurassic Park’ had been a very exciting experience for most of the Indians like me and through those movies we could understand the hard efforts, often risking his own life in the difficult shooting, done by the director, Without a doubt, in all of this he made his first cinematographic experiment at the tender age of 12, thus devoting his entire life to art and making world cinema richer and more entertaining. After working for a few years in the New Hollywood era that included several television episodes and minor films for Universal Studios, he got his game-changing chance in “Jaws” in 1975 when he was in his early 30s. Spielberg rightly refused. to make a sequel to ‘Jaws,’ as those sequels made by other filmmakers could never match the one original that is still chilling. However, he did make a sequel to ‘Jurassic Park’ titled ‘The Lost World-Jurassic Park’ in 1997 when the writer of the original came up with his second book, and that movie was also a critical and commercial success.
Somehow it follows from the narrative above that most of us always think of Spielberg as a serious filmmaker who also achieved great commercial success for his universally engaging storytelling and dedicated efforts. We could never imagine that he could make a movie in the lighter genre of comedy. Perhaps, it was just an experiment for this great filmmaker, and he did it beautifully too-getting inspired by a true event in the Paris airport, creating interesting characters including a romantic angle and erecting a huge filmset in the lines of the JFK airport of NY.
Now, back to ‘The Terminal’, the 2 hour 9 minute film does not have a single dull moment tickling you the whole time with Tom Hanks stumbling along with his brilliantly cultivated broken Russian or Bulgarian English as he manages the obsessed supervisors of the airport, security guards and various reception officials. His character also becomes emotionally involved with a stewardess played by Catherine Zeta-Jones, an Indian cleaner, a desk clerk with whom a guy from the canteen was romantically involved, and several other charming characters and episodes. Hanks’ character, Viktor, also helps a native of his region out of a tangle through his clever use of acting, fooling the horrified supervisor. The film also maintains the suspense about what is in the tin box that Viktor fondly removes frequently and that the supervisor who has been hell-bent on getting rid of it, either with the police or the FBI, desperately wants to know. It is better to leave such delicious elements for all those who also want to rediscover this comedy-drama film made by one of the legendary directors, producers and writers of world cinema.