Victor Navorski (Tom Hanks) has just landed in New York after flying from his home country of Krakozhia in Eastern Europe. He doesn’t realize that, while in the air, a military coup has taken place in Krakozhia. The American authorities won’t recognize Krakozhia as a country and confiscate his passport but without his passport he can neither enter America nor fly home. There is no legislation to cater for his circumstances and Victor doesn’t fall under the jurisdiction of any government agency. He is told to stay at the Airport until things are sorted out, but hours become days, and days become weeks…
This comic story is loosely based on true events. It’s an interesting story of a man who falls between “the cracks” and ends up outside the “system” in political limbo. Told in a comic and sentimental way this movie is strictly for cheerful entertainment rather than to make any powerful statement or impression. The humor is gentle but perceptive. Unfortunately the sentimentality is too strong with romantic and nostalgic ideas laid on with a heavy hand. This is particularly evident towards the end of the movie when things get a little mushy.
However, as light entertainment the movie works well and although a little uneventful at times the story does hold the interest. This has a lot to do with the likable characters in the story. The main character, Victor Navorski, played by a stocky Tom Hanks, is the type of person whose spirit is admirable and you find yourself cheering him on as he battles the authorities and bureaucracy. Tom Hanks, as always, gives a strong performance.
Stanley Tucci is also very good in the movie. He plays the officious airport manager who believes that ‘rules are rules’ and Victor Navorski is a complication that he doesn’t want on his patch. With a possible promotion coming up, the airport manager doesn’t want any blots on his pristine copybook and having a man walking around the terminal in a dressing gown doesn’t help!
Victor makes friends among the staff at the airport terminal and falls for air hostess, Amelia (Catherine Zeta-Jones). Their friendship is unlikely and not very convincing but it is the character of Amelia that loses credibility from this mismatch rather than Victor Navorski.
Lasting Thought: Sometimes you have to ignore the rules and concentrate on the people.
Bottom Line: A bit slow and sentimental but enjoyable light entertainment.