Most performers will say that the single greatest skill an actor can have is the ability to listen. Tom Hanks is often praised for his everyman qualities and his comedic timing, but people rarely discuss how good a listener he is. If The Terminal does nothing else, it will give people a new opportunity to appreciate Hanks' skill. As Viktor, the man without a country, Hanks wordlessly communicates to the audience how his character observes his new habitat, and how this intelligent, simple man learns to survive in it. As Viktor slowly acquires passable English and manages to earn money, Hanks' ability to observe and listen makes the character completely believable. Back-to-back Oscar wins made Hanks an institution, but to his credit he has become a much better actor in the decade since those historic victories. As is the case with every Steven Spielberg film since Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Terminal would be improved with some liberal editing. The film drags to its obvious, sentimental, tear-jerking conclusion and would cancel out the small joys of the first half-hour of the film if not for Hanks confidently going about his strange new life. Spielberg's instincts are always to drive his films toward bigger emotions, abandoning any and all subtlety, while Hanks is at his very best in small moments. The Terminal is nearly undone by this dichotomy, but Hanks provides enough moments to make the film more interesting that it deserves to be.
by Perry Seibert review