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"The Terminal"

THERE IS still such a lot of the child in Steven Spielberg that whether it is a science fiction or not he does not want to let go of the ideal situation and feel-good emotions of love. A befuddled Viktor Navroski from the East European (fictional) country of the Kracozia lands in the John F. Kennedy International Airport, only to be told that America is closed to him. He is taken inside to meet Frank Dixon (Stanley Tucci), the man running JFK's Homeland Security Office, who tells him that there has been a coup in his country and it exists no more. Until a new government comes into force, this non-English speaking person remains a man without a country. So his nationality and visa are invalid. Which also means that neither can he go back home nor can he enter the U.S. He has to set up temporary residence at the International Transit Lounge where days soon stretch into months.

This sounds like a boring proposition for a film. But what is gleaned from this deceptively slim concept by the director, is so rich in situations and characterisations that this new home is turned into a microcosm of America itself in "The Terminal" — a place that is sometimes tyrannical, yet full of compassion.

Working from a screenplay of Sacha Gervasi and Jeff Nathanson (inspired very loosely from a true story of an Iranian living in an airport in France), "The Terminal" echoes many of the director's previous films in tone and mood. There are the good and the bad guys, but mostly it is about ordinary guys thrust into extraordinary situations. Thematically and visually there is a luminous quality to his work, which makes for interesting viewing.

Left to fend for himself, Viktor, with every move of his being watched by the antagonistic Frank Dixon, quickly adapts to his new environment. Dixon hopes he will walk out of the exit door so that he can become someone else's problem and wonders how he can get rid of the guy without breaking any law or messing up his chances of becoming the airport' s Field Commissioner. But then Viktor does not cross that line.

Initially, Viktor is given some food coupons but they don't last and his own country's money is useless so he has to find ways of making money within the terminal to survive.

Being around for so long, he befriends many of the airport staffers like theIndian janitor Gupta (Kumar Pallana) and others from the ethnic minority community. The other very important person he meets frequently is Amelia (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who is a flight attendant in a dead-end relationship with a married man. She is smart enough to know that her's is a clichéd situation, but not smart enough to do anything about it. Viktor falls in love with her.

Viktor manages to inspire any one who comes in contact with him. And his resolute belief that he will see America and fulfil the purpose for which he has come. A reason that remains a mystery till the very end. "The Terminal" has many contrived parts. But the funny thing is you don't care - only because the director has such a strong command over his narration and fills it with such delightful, creative sequences and fuzzy warm characters. Viktor is played lovingly and subtly by Tom Hanks. The supporting characters do a good job too.

CHITRA MAHESH

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