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Fight or Flight? The Tale Of Two Lovers In Spielberg’s The Terminal

I don’t do romantic comedies, I find them predictable and cliched. But I do like Tom Hanks, because well he’s Tom Hanks. And, I adore Steven Spielberg because well he’s Steven Spielberg. So in theory I should enjoy The Terminal (2004). My boyfriend recommended it, saying “It’s really good.” but he has terrible taste in movies, (his favourite film of 2017 was Transformers 5: The Last Knight) so I was reluctant to watch The Terminal. However, I was aware that The Spielberg week was slowly approaching and I needed to familiarise myself with all of Spielberg’s work including the good, the bad and the mediocre.

The Terminal isn’t a great Spielberg classic, but it’s a decent film with a good heart. It has a positive message (Be true to yourself and always keep your promises). It shows the xenophobia that is rift within the American culture, but treads a little too softly (imagine how effective this film would have been if Tom Hanks hadn’t existed to a fictional country but his passport was revoked because of terrorism). Most importantly, The Terminal doesn’t deliver on the happy ending, instead we have a realistic depiction of a relationship which makes for a refreshing change.


Viktor Navorski (Tom Hanks) is a visitor to New York from Eastern Europe. His homeland erupts in a fiery coup, while he is in the air en route to America. Stranded at Kennedy Airport with a passport from nowhere, he is unauthorized to actually enter the United States. Viktor is stuck in limbo, unable to leave the terminal, until he can go home. As the weeks and months unfold Viktor adjusts to life inside the terminal and begins to strike up friendships and a potential relationship with a flight attendant called Amelia (Catherine Zeta Jones). Meanwhile short tempered airport official Frank Dixon (Stanley Tucci) is seeking to have Viktor removed from the terminal once and for all. 

The Terminal is a solid movie, it’s not an average Spielberg film. It’s a film designed for adults, which doesn’t rely on Adam Sandler slapstick crass jokes to be funny. It’s genuinely heart warming and fun. I’m not usually one for soft, sensitive films which wear their hearts on their sleeves, but The Terminal kept me fully entertained.  

I see The Terminal as Spielberg’s attempt at the indie comedy scene, and although it doesn’t quite work in my opinion as Spielberg seems a little too restricted here and at the same time lost, the film begins to drag on towards the second act. However, it is refreshing to see well established directors step out of their comfort zones, it’s a shame to see directors being pigeon-holed into one genre. 


The Terminal is a glimpse into Spielberg’s more romantic  and soft side, he can easily do sci-fi and war films but can he do quirky? Well, yes and no. There’s a decent film hidden within The Terminal, especially with the developing romance between Viktor and Amelia. However, I just found the film a little too innocent and cheesy. I guess, you could say it left me feeling Jet Lagged.  

Overall, for someone who loathes romantic comedies, in kept me interested. However, The Terminal doesn’t feel like a Spielberg film. I would only recommend it to those who don’t like Spielberg so they know, that he’s not just an one trick pony. It’s not quite first class, but it’s not economy, I guess it’s business. It’s a good in-flight movie but be wary of some turbulence. Right, I’ve truly exhausted myself with these “aeroplane” references! And, I can cross The Terminal off my list. I am still not a romantic comedy fan but if Spielberg was to do another I would happily give it a go.  


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