The Terminal

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Viktor Navorski (Tom Hanks) arrives at JFK International Airport, but finds that his passport is suddenly not valid, so he is not allowed to enter the United States. While he was en route to the U.S., a revolution was started in his home nation of Krakozhia. Due to the civil war, the United States no longer recognizes Krakozhia as a sovereign nation and denies Viktor’s entrance to the U.S. territory. He is unable to leave the airport, but he is also unable to return to Krakozhia, Viktor instead lives in the terminal, carrying his luggage and a mysterious Planters peanut can.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Head Frank Dixon (Stanley Tucci) wants Navorski removed from the airport. Navorski collects money for food by retrieving vacant baggage trolleys for the 25-cent reward from the machine, until Dixon prevents this. He then befriends a catering car driver named Enrique Cruz (Diego Luna) who gives him food in exchange for information about Customs and Border Protection officer Dolores Torres (Zoë Saldana), with whom Enrique is infatuated. With Viktor’s help, Enrique and Dolores eventually marry each other. He meets flight attendant Amelia Warren (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who asks him out to dinner, but he tries to earn money in order to ask Amelia out instead. He finally gets an off-the-books job as a construction worker at the airport earning $19 an hour (more money than Dixon makes), and he also learns to speak fluent English.

Viktor is asked to interpret for a desperate Russian man with undocumented drugs for his sick father. Viktor claims it is “medicine for goat,” barring the drug from confiscation and resolving the crisis. Under pressure and the watchful eye of the Airport Ratings committee, who is evaluating Dixon for an upcoming promotion, Dixon chastises Viktor. Though Dixon is advised that sometimes rules must be ignored, he becomes obsessed with getting Viktor ejected from the airport. An airport janitor, Rajan Gupta (Kumar Pallana), relates the “goat” incident with embellishment to his fellow co-workers and as a result, Viktor earns the respect and admiration of all of the airport staff.

One day, Viktor explains to Amelia that the purpose of his visit to New York is to collect an autograph from the tenor saxophonist Benny Golson. It is revealed that the peanut can Viktor carries with him contains an autographed copy of the “Great Day in Harlem” photograph. His late father was a jazz enthusiast who had discovered the famous portrait in a Hungarian newspaper in 1958, and vowed to get an autograph of all the 57 jazz musicians featured on the photograph. He succeeded in obtaining 56, but he died before he could finish his collection, so Viktor traveled to New York to obtain the autograph, so he can finish his collection.

After 9 months of living on the JFK terminal, he is awakened by Enrique and the other friends, who inform him that the war in Krakozhia is now ended, but Dixon will still not allow Viktor to enter the United States. Amelia reveals that she had asked her ‘friend’ — actually a married government official with whom she had been having an affair — to assist Viktor in obtaining permission to travel within the U.S., but Viktor is disappointed to learn she has renewed her relationship with the man during this process.

To make matters worse, Dixon needs to sign the form granting Viktor the right to remain in the United States, but refuses. He instead blackmails Viktor into returning to Krakozhia, or he will have Mulroy fired for having evening poker games with friends and bringing alcohol and marijuana into the airport, have Enrique fired for allowing Viktor into the restricted food preparation area and deport Gupta back to his native India, where he is wanted for assaulting a corrupt police officer back in 1979. Upon hearing this, Gupta runs in front of Viktor’s plane and asks Viktor to go anyway. The plane is delayed, giving Viktor enough time to go into the city and obtain the autograph. With the blessing of the entire airport staff, Viktor leaves the airport after receiving a uniform coat from a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Assistant Port Director and hails a taxi.

Dixon, watching Viktor leave the airport, decides not to pursue him. As Viktor prepares to take the taxi to a Ramada Inn where Benny Golson is performing, he observes Amelia exiting from a cab, where she gives him a wistful smile, telling him to go. He has a short conversation with the cab driver, telling him how to avoid traffic on the way to the hotel and that he is from Krakozhia. The driver tells Viktor that he is from Albania and arrived earlier that week. At the hotel, Benny Golson is doing a sound check and asks Viktor to wait while he finishes his rehearsal. Viktor listens to him play and collects the autograph, finally completing the collection. Afterwards, Viktor leaves and hails a taxi, telling the driver, “I am going home.” The taxi drives off and the credits roll.


Post 9/11, it seems as if anything anyone does is scrutinized. Throw in the fact that you’re from a country known for wars, and you’re almost certain to be profiled. To make matters even worse, imagine if your country no longer becomes a country while you’re in the air! These are just a few of the problems Tom Hanks has to face in The Terminal.

What is this about?

After a coup d’etat explodes in his homeland, Viktor Navorski is stranded at Kennedy Airport, where he’s holding a passport that nobody recognizes. While quarantined in the transit lounge, Viktor simply goes on living. The problem is that the powers that be don’t seem to want him there. What will be Viktor’s ultimate fate?

What did I like?

Canned jazz. Viktor’s sole purpose for coming to America is explained late in the film, but it has to do with a promise, a picture, and Planter’s peanut can. I love how they were able to give a quick cameo to one of the last living greats of the time when jazz ruled, Benny Golson, as well as namedrop a few other legends such as Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, etc. As a huge jazz fan, this was the highlight.

Go about your business. Viktor, who is stuck in limbo until the mess with his country is straightened out, makes the best out of a terrible situation. I can imagine someone like myself doing the same thing, just staying calm and make do with what is around, while other would totally freak out and almost cause an international incident.

Simple. This is a fairly simple plot. Everything about it can easily be understood and there are no brain teasers or whatnot. I can actually see this happening, if it hadn’t already. Think back to when the Soviet Union collapsed or when the Berlin Wall came down. Can’t you just see citizens from those lands being stuck here or somewhere else until things were resolved amongst their countries? I doubt that it was for this length of time, but you get the idea.

What didn’t I like?

Security. I don’t fly, so I cannot speak from personal experience, but I have heard the horror stories about the insane  security at airports. The fact that this guy was stuck just because his country had some issues just goes to show how much we profile everyone from other countries. Viktor was not a terrorist by any stretch of the imagination, but because they saw him carrying around his peanut can, they thought it was some plot. Can’t you just see security at some airport today nearly killing a guy for the same kind of thing?

Hookup. While Viktor is busy trying to get out of the airport, some random guy comes up to him and offers him food in exchange for information on a girl he is in love with. An honest request, however, the way Viktor goes about it almost seemed like he was the one trying to get the hookup. At least that’s how I saw it. Viktor does get a girl of his own; a real upgrade from Officer Torres, if you ask me. So, it all works out.

Always one. Viktor is such a likable guy, I find it hard to believe that anyone would wish him harm, but there were two people. One, is the janitor, who seemed to think he was a spy. Not really sure why, especially since he him himself was an international criminal of some sorts. The other was the head of Customs and Border Protection. I guess his reason for wanting him out is similar to the way many of s would want to oust a houseguest who overstayed their welcome. After all, this guy has been there 9 months! That said, to make it to where he can barely survive was a bit much.

The Terminal was a surprisingly entertaining film. The mixture of drama and comedy, as well the totally absurd premise that can be related to today makes for a compelling watch. I highly recommend this film, just not before you have to fly.

4 out of 5 stars


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