The Terminal

The Terminal

Infobox Film
name = The Terminal

caption = Theatrical poster
director = Steven Spielberg
producer = Steven Spielberg
Laurie MacDonald
Walter F. Parkes
writer = Screenplay
Sacha Gervasi
Jeff Nathanson
Andrew Niccol
Sacha Gervasi
starring = Tom Hanks
Catherine Zeta-Jones
Stanley Tucci
music = John Williams
cinematography = Janusz Kaminski
editing = Michael Kahn
distributor = DreamWorks Distribution LLC
released = June 18, 2004
runtime = 128 minutes
country = USA
language = English, French, Russian, Bulgarian
budget = $60,000,000 (estimated)
gross = $218,686,156
amg_id = 1:289945
imdb_id = 0362227

"The Terminal" is a 2004 comedy-drama film written by Andrew Niccol and Sacha Gervasi. The film is co-produced and directed by Steven Spielberg and stars Tom Hanks and Catherine Zeta-Jones. It is about a man trapped in a Terminal at JFK International Airport when he is denied entry into the United States and at the same time cannot return to his native country due to a revolution.Some have noted that it appears to be inspired by the story of Mehran Karimi Nasseri, an Iranian refugee who lived in Terminal One of the Charles de Gaulle airport near Paris from 1988 when his refugee papers were stolen until 2006 when he was hospitalized for unspecified ailments. [ [ Life in the lounge, BBC] ] However, no public materials, the DVD "special features", or the film's website mention Nasseri's plight as an inspiration for the film. Despite this, in September 2003, "The New York Times" noted that Spielberg bought the rights to Nasseri's life story as the basis for the film; and in September 2004 "The Guardian" noted Nasseri received thousands of dollars from the filmmakers.Matthew Rose, [ Waiting For Spielberg] , "The New York Times", September 21, 2003, Accessed June 12, 2008.] cite news|accessdate=2007-05-05
title=The man who lost his past |author=Paul Berczeller
work="The Guardian"|date=September 6, 2004

Another movie, 1994's "Lost in Transit" ("Tombés du ciel"), has a similar plot and is set in a Parisian airport.


Viktor Navorski (Tom Hanks), a man from the fictional country of Krakozhia, arrives at New York City's John F. Kennedy International Airport, only to discover that during the flight his eastern bloc country's government has been overthrown by rebels, invalidating his passport and thus leaving him stranded and stateless. Over the next nine months, Viktor is forced to live in the terminal building, unable either to set foot into the United States or to go home. He befriends the staff at the terminal, including flight attendant Amelia Warren (Catherine Zeta-Jones), while being under the watchful eye of Immigration Officer Frank Dixon (Stanley Tucci), who wants the "Navorski problem" removed from the airport.

One day, Viktor explains to Amelia that the purpose of his visit to New York City is to collect an autograph of the jazz tenor saxophonist Benny Golson. His father, who has died, was a jazz enthusiast. He had discovered the "Great Day in Harlem" photograph in a Hungarian newspaper in 1958, and vowed to get an autograph of all the 57 jazz musicians featured on the photograph. Over the next 40 years, he had managed to collect an autograph of all of them, except for one person: Benny Golson. Viktor wants to collect this last one to fulfill his father's dream.

A few months later, the news reports that the war in Krakozhia is over, but Dixon will still not allow Viktor to enter the United States. Amelia reveals that she'd asked her 'friend', actually a married government official with whom she had long been having an intermittent affair, to assist Viktor in obtaining permission to travel within the US, 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, instead deciding to deport him out of spite. Thanks to the timely interference of the friends Viktor has made during his stay in the terminal, he is allowed to leave the airport. As Viktor prepares to take a taxi to the Ramada Inn, 161 Lexington Avenue, in New York, where Benny Golson is performing, he observes Amelia exiting from a cab, where she gives him a wistful smile. He attends the show and collects the autograph, finally completing the collection. Afterwards, Viktor leaves and hails a taxi, telling the driver that he wants to go 'home'.

Cast and characters

*Tom Hanks as Viktor Navorski – a traveller from Krakozhia who finds himself stranded and forced to live in the terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport, unable to either enter the United States or go home.
*Catherine Zeta-Jones as Amelia Warren – a 39-year-old United Airlines flight attendant who started her job at the age of 18. For seven years, she has been involved in a relationship with Max, a married man.
*Stanley Tucci as Frank Dixon – the Area Director--and later, Field Commissioner--for U.S. Customs and Border Protection at JFK and nemesis to Viktor. Frank is on the brink of an impending job promotion that could upgrade him to being the new Regional Director. He thinks Viktor is a nuisance and does everything he can to evict him from the airport.
*Chi McBride as Joe Mulroy – a smart alecky baggage handler for United Airlines who likes smoking cigars and smuggling booze into the airport for himself and his co-workers.
*Diego Luna as Enrique Cruz – an employee of the airport who drives the food transport truck, and the main source of Viktor's meals, in exchange for Viktor acting as an intermediary between him and Officer Torres, with whom he is in love. Due to Viktor's help he marries her.
*Barry Shabaka Henley as Ray Thurman – a quiet customs officer and Frank's number two man.
*Kumar Pallana as Gupta Rajan – a janitor at JFK who is wanted in Madras, India for assaulting a police officer in 1979 who had come to ask for bribes; after he cleans the floor he always puts out plentiful amount of large warning signs; however, many people slip on the wet floor anyway, which he enjoys watching.
*Zoë Saldaña as Dolores Torres – an immigration officer whom Viktor sees every day to get his visa. She is a Trekkie, and goes to "Star Trek" conventions dressed as Yeoman Rand. The character is named after the character B'Elanna Torres from "Star Trek Voyager".Fact|date=December 2007 Actress Saldaña, coincidentally, is slated to play Uhura in the eleventh Star Trek film.

The cast also includes:
*Eddie Jones as Salchak
*Jude Ciccolella as Karl Iverson
*Corey Reynolds as Waylin
*Guillermo Díaz as Bobby Alima
*Rini Bell as Nadia
*Stephen Mendel as the First Class steward


Spielberg traveled around the world to find an actual airport that would let him film for the length of the production, but could not find one. The Terminal set was built in a massive hangar at the Palmdale Regional Airport. The hangar, part of the US Air Force Plant 42 complex was used to build the Rockwell International B-1B bomber. The set was built to full earthquake construction codes and was based on the Düsseldorf International Airport. The shape of both the actual terminal and the set viewed sideways is a cross section of an aircraft wing. The design of the set for "The Terminal", as noted by Roger Ebert in his reviews and attested by Spielberg himself in a feature by "Empire" magazine, was greatly inspired by Jacques Tati's classic film "Playtime".

Everything functioned in the set as in real life. There was real food, ice cream and coffee in the appropriate outlets. The escalators were purchased from a department store that had gone bankrupt. Each of the outlets featured in the concourse building was actually sponsored by the real company. Many stores are seen and Viktor seeks a job at Brookstone and the Discovery Channel store.

Most exterior shots and those featuring actual aircraft were shot at Montréal-Mirabel International Airport: additional interior shots were also done there including the mezzanine overlooking the immigration desks and the baggage carousels directly behind them, the jetways showing Aéroports de Montréal signs, and many Air Transat planes in the background, when New York is not one of their regular destinations. Additional pre-production shooting was done at Los Angeles International Airport and at Spielberg's offices at Amblin. Montreal is also mentioned on the loudspeaker at the beginning of the film, around the point where the customs officer tells Viktor to wait in a special line.

The 747 was provided by United Airlines. The Star Alliance was a major sponsor and provided uniforms, equipment, and actors in addition to those cast. In spite of the heavy presence of the Star Alliance airlines, you can see a Delta Air Lines pilot pass Viktor in a scene during the last 5 minutes of the movie. []

This is one of the few Spielberg-directed features that didn't feature special effects by Industrial Light and Magic.

Filming locations

*Palmdale Regional Airport, Palmdale, California
*Mirabel International Airport, Mirabel, Quebec (near Montreal)

Production companies

*DreamWorks SKG
*Amblin Entertainment
*Parkes/MacDonald Productions

Critical reception

The Terminal received mixed reactions from critics. The film received a score of 60% on Rotten Tomatoes [ [ The Terminal on Rotten Tomatoes] . Retrieved on 2008-07-01] and a score of 55 out of a possible 100 on Metacritic. [ [ The Terminal on Metacritic] . Retrieved on 2008-07-01] Michael Wilmington from the Chicago Tribune praised how " [the film] takes Spielberg into realms he's rarely traveled before." [ [ Movie review: 'The Terminal'] . Retrieved on 2008-07-01.] Dana Stevens of The New York Times said Hanks' performance brought a lot to the movie. [ [ Movie review: The Terminal, by The New York Times] Retrieved on 2008-07-01.] However, Joe Morgenstern from the Wall Street Journal thought that "The Terminal is a terminally fraudulent and all-but-interminable comedy." [ [ Review summary from the Wall Street Journal] Retrieved on 2008-07-01.] wrote that " [the movie is] the worst-directed film Spielberg has ever made." [ [ The Terminal review] . Retrieved on 2008-07-01.]

Inspiration and references

*The movie is based on the 18-year-stay of Mehran Karimi Nasseri in the Charles de Gaulle International Airport, Terminal I, Paris, France from 1988 to 2006.
*In a similar event, Ghana football player Ayi Nii Aryee was forced to live in a Philippine airport for six weeks as his passport lacked the necessary immigration stamp from the country (Singapore) he previously flew to and his student permit there was denied. Prior to coming to the Philippines, Aryee enrolled in a computer class in Singapore and applied for a student permit. While waiting, he went to the Philippines to visit a friend only to find himself stranded much like Tom Hanks in the movie. [] [] [] []
*A scene in which Viktor repeats the phrase, "Bite to eat, bite to eat, bite to eat... " to his reflection in a shop window is reminiscent of a scene in "Stolen Kisses" in which character Antoine Doinel repeats girls names to himself. Spielberg is known to be a fan of the French New Wave to which "Stolen Kisses" belongs.


Krakozhia ("Кракозия" or "Кракожия") is a fictional country created for the movie, that closely resembles a former Soviet Republic. The natives speak the Krakozhian language. From January 16 2004 to November 2004 the country was in civil war. When the war began, the President of the country was held hostage. As such, a new regime is installed, this leads to Viktor finding his passport and visa are now useless and held as the United States government does not recognize the new Krakozhian government. As such, Viktor must stay in the airport terminal for nine months, after which peace is declared in Krakozhia and he is able to return home.

Little else is known about Krakozhia, except that there was a lot of fighting which made the international news. We hear of the "northern area" being taken by rebels. Krakozhia has a national anthem almost exactly like that of Albania save for the lyrics. Navorski's driver's license is Belarusian. One can see the words "Вадзіцельскае пасведчанне" ("Vadzicielskaje pasviedczannie"), which means "driver's license" in Belarusian and the name of the Belarusian city of Homel. Curiously, the Belarusian name on the driver's license is "Гуліна Гульнара Надыраўна" ("Hulina Hulnara Nadiraŭna"); presumably the Belarusian driver's license shot in the movie belonged to a Belarusian girl who immigrated to the USA [] .

The language which Hanks' character speaks in the film, "Krakozhian," is supposedly close to or a dialect of Russian to the point of mutual understanding, but is actually slightly-accented literary Bulgarian. He probably also speaks Russian fluently, as in one scene he uses English and Russian translations of the same book to learn English. Tom Hanks' wife, Rita Wilson, whose father is a Pomak, is reported to have coached Hanks in Bulgarian in the course of the shooting of the film. In the same line the name of Viktor's father is "Dimitar Asenov Navorski", shaped after the Bulgarian three-section pattern and contains one name popular among contemporary Bulgarians—Dimitar (Димитър). The patronymic Asenov derives from one Bulgarian medieval dynasty and was borne by several Bulgarian Tsars, Ivan Asen II for example.

John Williams, the composer of the music for the film, also wrote a national anthem for Krakozhia.


In fact Viktor speaks slightly accented literary Bulgarian language when he is represented to use his Krakozhian mother tongue. When Viktor first arrives at the airport he spoke very little to no English; however, within the time frame of the film, he learns to speak English by immersion and picking up Russian and English versions of a New York City tour guide and comparing the wording. He also learns meanings by watching news programs at the airport.

The exact location of Krakozhia is kept specifically vague in the film, keeping with the idea of Viktor being simply Eastern European or from a former Soviet Republic. Throughout the film, it is learned that Krakozhia is bordered with Russia, that the Krakozhian language is akin to or a dialect of Russian, and that the Krakozhian national anthem is musically close to that of Albania (or the tune of Vajacki marš).

The film presents a reasonably accurate picture of the process of naturalistic second language acquisition, according to professional linguist Martha Young-Scholten.cite web |last=Young-Scholten |first=Martha |title="Hollywood: smarter than you think? Maybe" |accessdate=2007-12-25 |url= Abstract for talk given at the University of Leeds Department of Linguistics and Phonetics, 26 April 2006.]


*The initial ending had Amelia going to New York with Viktor. Various different versions of scenes were filmed to be either more comedic or more dramatic.
*Lucy, the girl with the pink suitcase, which Viktor tries to help but accidentally crushes it, is Steven Spielberg's daughter, Sasha.
*In the end credits, each person's name is their autograph.
*At the end of the film, Viktor steps out of the airport and is able to see the eastern New York skyline. However, in reality, the island of Manhattan is not visible from John F. Kennedy International Airport.
*In Viktor's documents, there is a strange entry – "ЕЩЬ РФТЛЫ" (i.e., "YESHCH RFTLI"). If typed in English on a standard 102/105 keyboard, these Cyrillic letters will give you a name – "TOM HANKS".
*The "hungarian" newspaper, can't be hungarian, because it written in cyrillic alphabet. In Hungary the cyrillic alphabet was never in use.

ee also

*Mehran Karimi Nasseri
*Stateless person

Notes and references

External links

* [ "The Terminal" official site]
*imdb title|id=0362227|title=The Terminal
*rotten-tomatoes|id=1133499-1133499-terminal|title=The Terminal

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