Friday, November 27, 2009

The Terminal

Spielberg in the 00s Previous: Catch Me If You Can Next: War of the Worlds

Tom Hanks may have been one of the most easily likable actors in America at some point… sort of a modern day Jimmy Stewart. But even likeability doesn’t make up for lack of compelling story. In 2000, Robert Zemeckis decided to attempt making a movie with only one character where nothing happened. Obviously, he had to use an actor that America would flock to see even in such a snooze inducing premise. They did, and it was critically acclaimed. None of that changed the fact that it was a story with one character where nothing happened…

Spielberg decided to follow up his first couple of efforts directing Hanks with a similar project. Based as loosely as possible on the story of a man who lived for years in an airport terminal, he cast Hanks in another story where he would be trapped in one place. Even though this time he was surrounded by people, it is still a story about a man who can’t go anywhere and where, as a result, very little happens.

That being said, this is a much better film than Cast Away. The situations and the characters are much more compelling. It also happens to be one of the best case studies of culture shock ever filmed. This is often what it feels like to encounter a different culture. There is confusion, fear, and a longing for something familiar. For most of the world, outside of North America, this is a common human experience. In most of the world, multiple cultures come into regular contact and have to learn to interact in a productive way. As it happens with more frequency in the United States, will we make it past the fear and confusion stage?

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