Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5. USA, 2004. DreamWorks, Amblin Entertainment, Parkes+MacDonald Image Nation. Story by Andrew Niccol, Sacha Gervasi, Screenplay by Sacha Gervasi, Jeff Nathanson. Cinematography by Janusz Kaminski. Produced by Laurie MacDonald, Walter F. Parkes, Steven Spielberg. Music by John Williams. Production Design by Alex McDowell. Costume Design by Mary Zophres. Film Editing by Michael Kahn.
Viktor Navorski (Tom Hanks) flies into New York city’s JFK airport from the fictional nation of Krakhozia with very little command of the English language and the desire to go to a hotel on Lexington avenue. He is stopped by authorities who inform him that, while he was in flight, his country went to war and has barred all travel for its citizens, revoking Viktor’s travel visa and forcing him to wait in the airport until such time as the political complications of his situation can be worked out. Security officer Stanley Tucci does his best to get rid of this very annoying babbler with whom he can hardly communicate, but Viktor sticks around for months, befriending employees, living in a gate that is under renovation and even getting a job working for the terminal’s construction crew. Then he meets a gorgeous flight attendant (Catherine Zeta-Jones, and if they were all this beautiful they’d still be called stewardesses) who captures his heart and inspires his further ambition. Hanks gives a moving performance but his character is basically the good-hearted, plucky Tom Hanks that we’ve all gotten to know in all his films, and throwing an eastern European accent on him doesn’t make it feel any newer. This is frustrated even more by his total lack of chemistry with Zeta-Jones, who gives a very finely etched portrayal in what is mostly a role composed of cliches. Their romance tries for a casual, random-encounter effect (sort of like Lost In Translation with a budget), but Spielberg is so fascinated by his own camera shots and unnecessary plot tangents (assisting other employees to fall in love? Pare it down!) that the film is overlong and bloated with its own self-importance. The finale, where we discover exactly why Viktor was coming to New York City in the first place, is the sort of story that could actually happen in real life but in a movie comes across as pure hokum. Diego Luna is terrific as a food cart driver who helps our hero out.