You first hear Tom Hanks’ Eastern European accent and
roll your eyes, but at some point during Steven Spielberg’s new film
The Terminal, you get lost inside its inner workings, as you
do most times when Spielberg is behind the camera; I now am having
problems remembering if it was a good accent or not, because it doesn’t
matter. It doesn’t matter because Tom Hanks doesn’t matter. Well,
he may in the grand scheme of things, or to his family I’m sure, but
it could’ve been anyone playing the part, and the film would remain
the same. The dialogue gets so sappy at points, and so melodramatic,
that the movie could’ve fallen flat. But it didn’t. It only fell into
a curled ball on the floor.
Barely minutes in, Tom Hanks is in the middle of the
mall, the camera tight on his mug. It pulls back; you see everyone
moving around him, and you realize that he has already been accepted
into a culture of people who are lost in the shuffle. Stanley Tucci,
a Lefty Rosenthal figure, the pit boss watching the Casino—errr, airport—from
televisions above in his antiseptically white room brings Victor,
Hanks’ character, into the room to deliver an admittedly farfetched
plot device, that the government of his small country has been overthrown
while he was mid-air. He goes on to explain that “Your country doesn’t
exist, in fact you don’t exist,” and that he will have to stay in
the airport until the almighty U.S. recognizes his country.
Hanks leaves the office after finally understanding
that he can’t leave the airport, although not knowing why, and catches
a glimpse of a CNN-esque news channel displaying his fictional countrymen
amidst flying bullets. Shortly thereafter, he loses his food vouchers,
and is forced to scrape together change by returning carts for quarters
(it makes sense on the screen). What do you think he does in this
mini-mall inside of an airport? He goes to “The King” for a fat Burger.
And for the rest of the movie, whenever he can get money together
to eat, he returns to the BK Lounge. The American way of consumerism
will accept anyone, even he, the homeless, living in an airport. This
way of life doesn’t discriminate like would-be-bosses he tries to
talk into hiring him. The screenwriters show, and I believe it to
be true, that you never have to set foot onto American soil to become
one of US in the consumerist respect.
Strangely, Victor is similar to Hanks’ character in
Castaway. You can draw the parallels once you’ve seen both,
but he fashions himself a nice bed out of old benches, proving that
he has a great work ethic, especially compared to his American Construction
counterparts who look in awe every time they see the craftsmanship
that could only be taught somewhere outside of America. He buys a
Hugo boss suit, to look nice for a woman who is a lost cause, and
doesn’t feel the need to redeem herself, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones.
One of the most interesting themes within the movie
is voiced by the charater Guptar (played by Kumar Pallana from Bottle
Rocket, Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums). Guptar is a
conspiracy theorist who thinks that Victor is a spy, effectively arousing
the audience’s suspicions. One’s mind is set wandering, wondering
what is going on and what is, in fact, inside that little
can that Victor is carrying about with him.
The writer of The Truman Show wrote The
Terminal, as well as Simone. The people of the airport
wind up watching Victor for months on the little security camera TV
screens, and, of course, rooting for him similar to the way old Truman
was cheered on. The unlikely Victor who, as Tucci says, “Doesn’t exist,”
becomes a mini-star in his airport microcosm of American society.
He becomes a symbol of pride for the people, a celebrity—again, like
with consumerism, you don’t need to be an American to fit right in.
Basically, these screenwriters thought, “Peter Wier didn’t handle
Truman like we wanted, now what is the strangest place someone
can get stranded where people can watch him on TV, with the most contrived
reason for him being stranded in the first place Oh. I know! A Casino!”
And when that didn’t work, they thought, “an Airport!!” Amazing.
I won’t give away the end, but it features both the
famous picture “A Great Day in Harlem,” (which shares a documentary
of the same name that you should check out) and Benny Golson—who is
the man. It becomes so sappy that my brother and I were ready to bounce,
but, as usual, Steve somehow kept me enthralled so we didn’t. I know
that many people think Spielberg is a big-Hollywood sucker, but he
is a master of his craft at the very least, who can handle the steady-cam
as well as the crane with an ease probably only paralleled by his
film school generation counterparts, and tackle far more aptly, and
more subtly, themes that the same screenwriter has been trying to
get other directors to tackle.