So from that aspect, at least, The Terminal is not at all far-fetched. In fact, it's based (loosely) on an actual man who's been living in Charles DeGaulle airport in Paris since 1988. You can see a person living within the confines of a plush international airport, not just surving, but thriving, without straining the imagination too much.
Tom Hanks is, once again, immersed in his adopted persona, this time as hapless Viktor Navorski, a slavic national whose country (the fictional "Krakozia") undergoes a coup while he's in the air to New York's JFK. Set free in the international terminal by a US Customs bureaucrat (the at once smarmy and desperate Stanley Tucci, whose character, Frank Dixon, is in many ways just as trapped as Viktor is) to fend for himself, Viktor, armed with only a few English words, a gentle nature and strong morals, simply makes do. He forges a home for himself in under-construction Gate 67, he manages to earn money for food, and, in a scene reminiscent of Mies vailla menneisyyttä when the Man discovers his occupation, earns himself an under-the-table contracting job remodelling the airport. He finds an US edition of the New York travel guide he bought back home and uses both to learn English. He makes friends, plays a little Cyrano de Bergerac, and even falls in love with a United stewardess. Nine months later, the war in his country ends, and he can "go New York City" to complete the task he went to America to do.
Tom Hanks in amazing as the bewildered Viktor. The accent is believable, his confusion is tangible and the way he just accepts the bizarre and trusts total strangers is endearing. I'm not going to be at all surprised if, despite its June release date, we hear Hanks' name in February when Oscar nominees are announced.
Of course, at no time do you forget that this is a Spielberg movie. How can you, when it's so filled with typical Spielbergian gimmicks...the "stranger in the strange land," the good-hearted hero who triumphs simply by being noble, the bittersweet happy ending, with its expected pat conclusion. It's also interesting to note a continuance of themes from previous Spielberg and Hanks movies. The fascination with airports' backstage machinations begun with Catch Me If You Can is back in spades, as is Castaway's man abandoned, left to his own resourcefulness to survive. It's also got an underlying affection for jazz, just as Hanks' own That Thing You Do! has.
But first and foremost, it's a fragile memento of a fleeting moment in history. Made after September 11, but before the whole Homeland Security/Patriot Act insanity really got going, it depicts a time that's already past; air travel and xenophobia has gotten even worse in this country since the film was made...
(PS...How sad is it - and what does it say about the States - when Dodgeball is number 1 at the box office, and this gem is only number 2? Sigh...)