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MOVIE DADDY: The Terminal

Throughout his career, Steven Spielberg has created some of the most popular films of all time, garnering him enormous respect on both a critical and financial scale. He is considered by many to be the most famous director of all time, given his track record as both director and producer of some of the most recognizable films of the past 50 years. Movie Daddy is a series by Story Screen Editor-in-Chief, Mike Burdge, which aims to cover The Beard's directorial filmography in an attempt to present just why Steven Spielberg is very much that hot fire when it comes to being an American filmmaker. In this installment, we’re gonna talk about the 2004 lighthearted comedy, The Terminal.


When you’re a guy like Steven Spielberg, who has traversed many genres throughout his nearly 50-year career as a director, there will always come a time of scratching the bottom of the barrel for a good idea, as well as seemingly flying too close to the sun of a great one. Some films border on the razor’s edge of these two polar opposite sides of the filmmaking spectrum: films that just barely pull off a decent job of being entertaining and films that land with absolute perfection. The Terminal is none of these. Rather, it is a perfect example of all the other films that fill the space between them: the ones that are alright. Described by Spielberg as a film about “a unique snafu,” The Terminal has always been isolated within the director’s filmography as one of his odder entries, garnering decent success both critically and financially, but never really standing out for anything, be it positive or negative. Sure, the film has its rigid haters (cool, guys), as well as its defiant fans (also cool, guys), but in my opinion, the film is just… okay. Like many films, The Terminal isn’t outlandishly offensive (although, yes, there are some weird problems in there), nor is it anything special really. It just is. It’s a movie, with actors and music and all that jazz. But a movie that Roger Ebert commended for its lessons of “hope and integrity” can’t be all that bad, right? I’d argue that the most interesting thing about the film (besides its obviously impressive production design) is its theme of perseverance, including the choices we make for ourselves and others, something easily undervalued since its greatest points are buried underneath loads of awkward dialogue and scenes of Tom Hanks almost eating condiment saltine sandwiches. Let us begin.

"I think that Steven always brings a larger element, a larger emotional element, and almost a larger examination of the theme than the screenplays actually present to begin with. Steven sees something in it that can only be expressed in cinematic terms, that can only be captured in cinematic ways."

-Tom Hanks

The Terminal is an extremely well-directed film, a statement I’d contest is inarguable to anyone who has actually sat through it. It’s an ideal representation of the stance I’ve made about Spielberg from the very beginning of this series, as well as years before that: even Spielberg’s “bad” movies are expertly crafted from the directorial side of things. Granted, many of these things: lighting, framing, set design, music, etc, are all products of others, working in tandem with Spielberg to achieve his vision, but he’s there, making the calls and getting the shots. The worst Spielberg movie is often just as good as any passable film you think of. He’s like pizza, in that way. After all the darker fare he had thrown himself into over the past decade (Amistad, Saving Private Ryan, Minority Report), 2002’s Catch Me If You Can’s light, connectedness was a breath of fresh air for the ol’ hat-wearing boss man, and he wanted more, damn you. MORE.

"I wanted to do something that could make me smile, and could make other people smile, and this is a time that we need a smile, and Hollywood movies are supposed to give that to people at times in our own history when we’re going through some painful experiences. I wanted to do another picture that just could make you laugh and cry and feel good about yourself and others."



Now, before getting into the film proper, I’ve got a couple “quick” things I came across in my research of the film that I’d absolutely love to share with you: the history of the real dude this movie was technically based on, as well as the crown jewel achievement of the film, the set.

It should first be noted that while, yes, Dreamworks paid a man anywhere from $250,000 to $500,000 for the rights to his life story of being stuck at an airport for a very long time, this is very much the point where the similarities cease. Mehran Karimi Nasseri was stuck in an airport terminal for eighteen years, seemingly for many reasons, most of which are also contested by officials and people familiar with the event. It’s possible he had been able to leave for years, due to immigration laws and zones changing, but because certain forms were not signed and specific tasks not completed, there he stayed. For eighteen years! When the movie was released in 2004, this guy was STILL in the airport. Apparently, he didn’t see the actual movie when it was released, which is believable because (checks notes) he was stuck in a fucking airport.

History time (and then, I swear, back to the Tom Hanks movie)! In 1977, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah (King) of Iran, was doing a bunch of very bad things that resulted in a lot of backlashes and protests. During this time, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) organized that many Iranians were able to receive refugee status in certain European countries, and Mehran Karimi Nasseri claimed to be such a refugee. His mother was British, and so he had stayed in Britain until 1986, and when attempting to move from Britain to Paris, the French government claimed he was never expelled from Iran at any point, and therefore ineligible for this specific type of refugee status. It should be noted that when Nasseri arrived, he claimed that all of his bags had been stolen, along with all of his official papers and documents, and this, naturally, led to the French police swiftly arresting him. After being released by police shortly thereafter, it was technically legal for him to remain in the airport, but not venture into the city, and with no proper documentation, he could not travel. So, he started living in the departure lounge of Terminal 1 in Charles de Gaulle Airport in France. This is where stuff gets very irritating, so brace yourself: he repeatedly tried to get his documents from Belgium, but this required him to physically be there to obtain them, which was impossible. Then, after nearly ten years of this nonsense, the government of Belgium agreed to allow him to travel to their country in order to retrieve the documents, but only as long as he was under constant supervision during his travel and stay. He refused. At a few points, both France and Belgium granted residence to Nasseri, but he once again refused, referring to his British citizenship, which he demanded be on his papers. He also, at one point, changed his name to Sir Alfred Mehran, which, umm, wasn’t real. So, yeah, he wasn't doing himself a ton of favors.

Nasseri stayed at the airport from August 26, 1988 until July 2006, when he was hospitalized for unknown medical reasons and removed from the airport, along with his “living space,” which was a small area containing his minimal belongings and bedding. In 2007, he was transferred to a Christian foster home in Paris, where he resides to this day. Now, there has been a lot of documentation released on the apparent mental health of Nasseri, who seemed to have slipped into a state of agitation and refusal of his own identity by the late 90s. The same year that The Terminal (that’s right, the movie we’re talking about!) was released, Nasseri had an autobiography published, called The Terminal Man. As briefly stated at the top, Spielberg’s company, Dreamworks, had bought the rights, but the director seemingly decided not to get too specific in the story they were trying to tell. I say seemingly, because, and here comes the weirdest part about all of this to me, Nasseri is never mentioned in the extensive behind-the-scenes featurettes or in any of the release tour interviews that I could find. There is no mention of him by the cast or crew before, during or after the production of the film. The only reason we know Dreamworks bought the rights in the first place is from a 2003 article in The Guardian, which simply reports that the rights had been acquired, as well as the legend that Nasseri himself draped a poster of The Terminal over his luggage during the years following the film's release.

Alright, let’s gush over this set for a minute.

Alex McDowell, the production designer, who also worked on Minority Report with Spielberg, realized that there was no known set or warehouse in Hollywood that could hold their designed set plans for their version of JFK International Airport, and so, he began scouring the greater LA area, leading to the discovery of an old hanger in Palmdale, which was originally used to build airplanes. There they constructed three stories of a fully fleshed-out set, which spanned the size of four football fields, creating a gigantic 360 degrees of shootable space. Good lord! In a cinematic world now filled with CGI for massive locations, this is a refreshing, tactile spectacle. Remarking on the set, Tom Hanks said, “It’s immediately inviting. This is actually the antithesis of what most motion picture making is. It is bright. It is airy. It is cool. And there are plenty of places to sit!” Further infusing this feat with realism, more than thirty-five companies are represented in the mall, all of which were, for lack of a better term, as real as the movie making business would allow. McDowell commented that, “The set had to carry its own weight,” and he sought the invisibility aspect of set design, and my holy hell did he pull it off. The set was based off of a dozen different terminals, from Denver to Osaka, incorporating all the modern and throwback feels they encountered across the world of international airports. Things like welcoming architecture and natural light were all taken into account, and the finished product is truly the main star of the film. It all creates something that feels both natural and real, bland and normal even, but also has a monumental sense to it from any angle in every shot. On a daily basis, the film had five to six hundred extras, all touched by wardrobe in varying ways. Wow.

And, on top of the building of the actual set, which took (checks notes) forever, Spielberg had McDowell create a fairly large model of the terminal set early on, which he used to spend the summer planning many of his shots and set ups using a mini-periscope with a small camera attached to the end. Crazy and cool. Spielberg says:

"I did want to memorize the set before I began the movie. I wanted to discover the set the way Viktor Navorski was discovering his environment, his new home… It really kept me stimulated cinematically. I used every square inch of that space that Alex McDowell built for us."

Thanks for sticking with me on that. Now, back to the movie itself.

Spielberg says that the script came to him through the many, many scripts tossed his way from Dreamworks, the production company which he co-founded in 1994. After reading “three scripts on Saturday,” and “three scripts on Sunday,” The Terminal was the last one to land in The Beard’s lap, and it apparently floored him. Now, this script doesn’t seem to present anything special at my glances, so maybe he’d been worn down by whatever these unlucky five previous scripts were. But to be fair, he does, in an interview, refer to the script as “very well treated,” so it might have just been the concept that grabbed him. I mean hey, it’s a good concept! Wasn’t this based off of someone Steven? Hmmmmm?? Steven??? He loved the script, and told his co-producers he’d love to direct it, based on an affinity he had for Viktor’s story. He just liked this story, I guess! And that’s no surprise, as even Roger Ebert admitted in his soaring review of the film: “The Terminal doesn’t have a plot, it tells a story. We want to know what will happen next, and we care.”

Co-screenwriter Sacha Gervasi, who wrote the final draft with Jeff Nathanson, took it upon himself to live at the Tom Bradley Terminal at LAX for several days for research. In doing this, he discovered what anyone who has ever worked in the service industry knows very well: you learn to rely on one another, and any constant that retains the mere semblance of normalcy, be it co-workers, customers, or repeating events. This is the community theory that injects itself into any stable, healthy working environment. The social and emotional end point that is suggested, and lightly played with, throughout the film is actually quite profound, especially when attributed to an airport of all places, a setting most of us have dealt with as a means to an end; a sort of “passing through” to other more interesting and desirable things. But producer Laurie MacDonald absolutely nails it in this quote about the greater meaning of the setting of film:

"In a real airport and in our set, which is as good as a real airport, it’s all about people on their way to someplace. It’s all about movement. And in our own lives, I think, we’re all about movement. We’re about our jobs and rushing to get the kids to school. It often leaves little time for reflection. And in some ways, I think Viktor’s stillness allows him to be a kind of mirror for these people. He allows them to kind of examine their own lives. I don’t think Viktor really changes as an essential person from the experience… I think it’s more about how he affects the lives he intersects with."

Similarly, Spielberg says this:

"There’s a tremendous pace to this story. The average scene in this movie is like a minute and forty-five seconds, and so, even though Viktor is stuck at an airport, where you would expect the film to have no energy, for the film to close in on itself, and be extremely lugubrious, just the opposite is what I intended. I wanted everybody, passengers coming, passengers going, to create a kind of gauntlet. There’s a shot where Viktor just stands and the camera pulls back to the very, very end of the airport, and Viktor, you just lose him, he becomes invisible, and he’s the only person not moving, everyone else is moving in every direction of the compass except him. And so there is that energy in the story. Waiting can be exciting. Waiting can be entertaining."

The story, in and of itself, is rather lackluster and pretty flawed; it is not a script alone that makes a film, however important it may seem and actually is. No, my dear reader, even the faultiest of teleplays can be risen ever higher by the production that sets out to bring it to life. We’ve already talked about the miraculous set constructed for this thing, but what about the tiny humans hired to act in it? Let’s run down a few of the major players:

Stanley Tucci: anytime, anywhere, baby. Tucci is an ace up the sleeve for any movie, a performer that truly shows up to play and gives great acting. Tucci was Spielberg’s first and only choice to play Dixon, and the naturalism he brings to a character whose humanity and faults needed to tip-toe the line of villainy were crucial to the right mood for the character. The photocopy scene is, I’ll admit, a bit intense though. The character, out of nowhere, is allowed to go beyond the intentions of the script with blatant disregard for what all involved were hoping to communicate. It’s a brief blip of a betrayal of the character, and it happens a bit more throughout the latter half of the film, but not as intensely. Still, it’s Tucci, so you love to see it.

Diego Luna: a giant cheek you wanna pinch throughout the entire movie. Luna’s charm would be undeniable if it wasn’t for his character unintentionally being written as a huge creep and definitive weirdo. This guy does the weirdest shit in a movie that is filled with weird shit that doesn’t make any sense. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to get into it at length, because I spent four paragraphs talking about a mentally ill dude in a French airport earlier, but I’ll just say this: “The Spielberg Touch” is working on full overtime to get this one under your nose, and for some it worked, but people don’t forget. (More on “The Spielberg Touch” coming up.)

Zoe Saldana: Yeah, I know her character is a Trekkie, and that this movie was made years before she’s cast as Uhura in the Star Trek reboot. Not only do I know this, but I also concur that it is neat. That’s neat! Her character is given the same soft edges as everyone else (which can and unfortunately does lead to generally not really caring about any of these people), and her interactions with Hanks are genuinely sweet, even though the underlying motives are creepier than a crime scene flashback from Se7en. But Saldana, like Spielberg and MacDonald, seemingly gets it:

"Every character in this film has been affected, in one way or the other, by this man who out of nowhere is completely dropped in a very hopeless situation and somehow he still has the power and the influence to bring hope to everybody and their own circumstances."

Catherine Zeta-Jones: Spielberg saw the actor in the TV mini-series Titanic, a hard-recommend from me for anyone who truly wants to live life on the edge. The director fought for her to get cast as Elena in The Mask of Zorro, which he was executive producing. From there, her star shot high and did so insanely fast with Entrapment, High Fidelity, Traffic and her Oscar winning performance in the one movie that had it all, Chicago. From there, a brief stop in the Coen Brothers’ unfairly forgotten Intolerable Cruelty, and off to The Terminal she went. Zeta-Jones’ Amelia is a character that’s designed from the ground up around her inability to nurture her relationships based solely on her job as a flight attendant, which is to say, she can never allow herself to be content because she is in constant flux. I like this idea, Terminal, but like, just because of her job?? Slightly more interesting, Amelia builds this grand outlook on her life based on the people she reads about in history books, which she buys at all the terminal mall gift shops on her travels for work. That’s friggin’ really cool character work that goes nowhere. It is unfortunate that much of Amelia’s role in the film is anchored to the reactions and growth of its central figure, but that’s just the way misogyny gonna misogyny, bucko. The fascinating thing the film (unsuccessfully) attempts to communicate is that the romance is destined to be a platonic evolution for Viktor Navorski’s character. Says the Spiel:

"In a sense, Viktor comes into Amelia’s life as a good listener, as a good confidant. Not so much as a lover, not so much as her next boyfriend, not so much as her knight in shining armor, but HE LISTENS. And she doesn’t know many men that listen. And because Viktor doesn’t speak English very well, all he can do is listen!"

This does end in Amelia’s character suffering a romantic-comedy version of the end of Chinatown, but what ya gonna do, write a strong female character with an arc? Naaaahhhhhh. At least she doesn’t end up getting married at an airport to a future lieutenant of the Jigsaw Killer.

Which brings us to Tom Hanks. It can’t be understated how amazing of a run Hanks was on leading up to this movie, but in defiance of that statement, I’ll understate it anyway: your dude was on a run. The simplicity of Hanks’ Viktor, in how he is both written and performed, is central to this tried-and-true tale of a good person changing the lives of those around him by just being his good ol’ self. Viktor is heartfelt and good, a hopeful and helpful man, succeeding by his wits alone in a variety of encounters and situations, and Hanks's selling this is the underlying magnetism of the film. It really is a wildly captivating performance, even with all the shenanigans going on around it. There’s an experiential evolution written into the character that is just so fascinating to watch Hanks really dig into; it’s one of the many reasons he’s just such a great performer. On this Hanks says, “He (Viktor) really does go through a transformation that by the time he leaves, he probably has a much better appreciation for America when he leaves this terminal than he would have if he had been out in America all this time.” And that accent? In an interview with the ravishing James Lipton, Hanks said the accent of the fake Eastern European country, Krakozhia, was based loosely off his father-in-law, who spoke Russian, Turkish, Polish, Greek, Italian and French, and who was himself Bulgarian. Acting, folks!

The relationships Viktor has with each main character build the thematic intentions of the film, another piece of evidence that there is something going on in this movie underneath all this. Dixon and Viktor are the same, seemingly just following rules, but where our “villain” can seem strict and suspecting, our “hero” is easy-going and generously trusting. Amelia and Viktor are both lonely, but for different reasons, and both are stuck in the hindrances of the airport(s), and neither is going anywhere of worth anytime soon, which unbeknownst to them is the foundation of their attraction to each other, again for different reasons. And then there’s the way that the characters in this world see Viktor, and in turn how we the audience interpret how we should feel about him. There’s a sentiment here that tip-toes the lines of Anti-Americanism, however manipulated this may feel, or actually be, in the finished film. Viktor is seen, at first, as inept and simple, not even understanding basic concepts because, simply, he doesn’t speak English. But his nobility and earnestness come in stark contrast with what we think a “hero” should be. This all comes from Spielberg’s attempts to paint the terminal as a “small microcosm of society,” going on to say, “There’s places to eat, places to shop, places to go to the bathroom… Airports are mini-communities.”

Returning again to orchestrate the tickling of the ivories and strings is Big Daddy John Williams, turning out a score that is, at first glance, generic and what you’d come to expect from the master giving it his fine touch. But much like Spielberg as a director, John Williams is very much pizza. And given his exhaustively impressive career, it may surprise you that his work on The Terminal, and the film itself, is one of his fondest memories:

"I like this film very much. It’s a love story, of course, in a way. But I also see this film as an Ellis Island poem, if you like. And so musically, you know, it’s an opportunity to create music for Viktor that has an ethnic texture."

To give texture to the score, Williams subtly utilized the accordion, clarinet and cimbalom, all go-to Eastern European musical instruments, and he did it marvelously, incorporating rarely heard tunes and sounds into an otherwise familiar epic in scope Williams joint. This worked well when starting to mess around with what could be used to define character’s cultures and backgrounds in unexpected ways, such as the introduction of Amelia’s theme, or the “love theme” of the film as Williams and Spielberg would call it, which brings an Americanization to the sounds so far established to be heavily Eastern European. Williams, sweetly, referred to this composition as “a lovely piece that I was very grateful to have worked on.” The Terminal’s big third act reveal (which is also cleverly hidden throughout the film in throwaway lines of dialogue and keenly inserted music) establishes the very reason for Viktor being in America is tied around the legacy of jazz, not just as a genre of music, but as an American way of life and identity. This, naturally, appealed to Williams very, very much:

"I like the jazz sequence, of course, very much at the end. I love this whole idea: the photograph of the jazz greats is, at least in my part of the culture, a very well known photograph… Storywise, that a man would come from Eastern Europe with a little can of photographs is a fantastic idea. You know it’s a very nice point about the jazz being the subplot of the film… the poetic sense, I’d guess you’d say, that Viktor is here. To have the autograph of Benny Golson, who’s a great jazz musician."

What Spielberg brings to the table for The Terminal is what he’s brought for every movie he’s ever directed. He’s like your grandma, always bringing the same dish to every family dinner, but boy howdy does that dish slap every time (and as someone who has a grandmother who is a terrible cook, I understand this comparison won’t be easy for everyone, but you get what I’m saying). There’s a comforting charm to this film. So many elements are bad and should spoil much of the movie, be it individual subplots, failed romantic moments, general believability, or very much an assortment of moments featuring problematic stereotyping. In hindsight, removed from the warm embrace of the film, these things are most assuredly condemnable and can present the picture of a poorly made movie. But Spielberg makes you believe in the good of his characters and world, and while you’re in it, it’s all sprinkles and ice cream. This is what I mean when I say, “The Spielberg Touch,” and I’ve held off on speaking about it in the past year of articles because I wanted to wait for my discussion on a movie that would most benefit from its presence. Spielberg is a brand name. If Alfred Hitchcock is called the "Master of Suspense," then Spielberg could be called the "Master of Believability." As a director, he is as exacting as he is generous, and both of these are the things that truly come across in anything he makes. “The Spielberg Touch,” is quite simply, the inexplicable yet undeniable energy you feel flowing through you when you watch a Spielberg movie. It could be a whole damn movie, or just a scene, or even the smallest of moments within a scene, but you know it when you feel it. It is the arrival of imagination, and Spielberg is the one pulling the ship slowly into port. Or, I guess in this example, landing the plane.

The Terminal, much like Saving Private Ryan and Lincoln, is also a great example of Spielberg being a director of actors, as well as a director of scenes and moments.

"I think that what I’m attracted to as an actor is the same sort of qualities that he’s (Spielberg’s) attracted to in the story as a filmmaker, and he constantly surprises me with his visionary idea of how to make a shot interesting on one hand, but much more important, how to tell a story with a shot in the scene."

- Tom Hanks

Perhaps you have heard, in all of your extensive conversations surrounding 2004’s The Terminal, that Spielberg was heavily influenced by the works of famed French actor-director, Jacques Tati. This has been stated by the director in multiple interviews and discussions, but to quote Jesse Buckley’s Young Woman, “I’m not sure I agree.” The similarities between Tati and Hanks’ performances are obvious, but that’s where I think the influences stop. While I’m sure Spielberg had it in his mind to direct Hanks in such a way to emulate the late, great comedic performer, much of the blocking and antics used in Tati’s work were already staples of what made some of Spielberg’s more comedic moments in his previous films work so well. It’s an influence he’s felt, knowingly or not, for decades by the time he made The Terminal. Is it a little more on-the-nose because of the genre he’s working in? Yes. Does that make it a noteworthy influence? I’d say not, but you can’t blame a man for bringing out the big names of performative realistic comedy when trying to make his own comedy that is so aggressively trying to communicate mundanity.

This also happens to be one of the movies “The Big Four” worked on together, which included the likes of Spielberg himself, the previously mentioned Big Daddy John Williams, as well as cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, and editor Michael Kahn. Kaminski is one of my favorite cinematographers, and for good reason. The man is unique in his style and approach to making things look naturalistic while simultaneously cinematic. This is why he and Spielberg have collaborated again and again because Spielberg’s approach to creating naturalistic magic works insanely well when grounded by the strong hand of Kaminski, firmly gripping the look and feel of the real world, an advantage he uses to an alarming degree in more serious works like Schindler’s List, Minority Report and Munich. For The Terminal, Spielberg had spoken with Kaminski to up the realism of every shot:

"We’re not going to stylize the picture, we’re not going to visually editorialize on it, I’d just like to get this terminal, which is a set, to look like we were on location shooting in the real place. And that is exactly what Janusz did. Janusz still had some tricks up his sleeve, he gave it a kind of really nice, colorful wash, he lit it beautifully and elegantly, but realistically, so it passed off the artificial arc light for real sunlight, so that you’d think it was real sunlight coming through the skylight."

At this point, Michael Kahn had edited seventeen of Spielberg’s twenty-one films. They got each other, and so quickly, on the day editing allowed for the perfect moments to be captured from each workday. Love it or leave it, this is the exact movie they meant to make. While there will be much more talk in the coming installments on Kahn (and Kaminski), I would like to state how soothing I find the editing in this film. One of my deepest appreciations within film lies in “The Lie,” or the editing. It’s something that took a long time to get a grasp of, and much, much longer to sharpen in my own head where every cut I was noticing wasn’t distracting me from what was actually happening. Seriously, studying editing ruined a good 3 years of movies for me (sorry, Zero Dark Thirty!) But Kahn, like Spielberg and Williams, is an adaptive little monster, able to throw his usual signature on just about anything he approaches while making it feel fresh and original, and The Terminal is no different.

There’s a lot of stupid stuff in this movie, and as a white man, I’m not ashamed to admit my hesitancy in shrugging off any racially insensitive stereotyping that is for sure going on with a load of characters (more on this in the next article), nor am I completely oblivious to the fact that the women in this movie are extremely one dimensional and without any resemblance to a real person I’ve ever met. But I do maintain that I think this was all done from a place of trying to tell a specific story about the good in all of us and the power that both cultural and gender differences can have in a world that, frankly, loves to exploit that stuff. In commenting on this, do I think The Terminal furthers the conversation in this way? I absolutely do not. I think the fun, whimsical nature of the film very much gets in the way of the heavier things it is so ironically lightly touching against. I’m not trying to be Mr. Positive here. There’s a lot wrong with The Terminal, but I do think the parts that do work, work swimmingly well, and really give a nice brush across the whole thing that leaves, at least me, satisfied.

The public reception would seem to be in line with my feelings, at least for the most part. While many critics enjoyed the film for what it was, almost all were aware of the film’s shortcomings but remained generally positive on the quality and lightheartedness on display. Made for $60 million, the film grossed an unimpressive $77 million domestically, while worldwide it pulled in $218 million, also not very breathtaking.

Barry Shabaka Henley, who played head guard Thurman, called the film, “an adaptation of neutrality,” and I find that a genuinely surreal statement coming from a man that has worked in some seriously amazing movies. Also, the bit of Gupta, played by Kumar Pallana, leaving the floor wet to watch people slip and fall for fun IS cinema. And on that note, the scene with a foreign traveler trying to explain his need for the medicine he has unintentionally brought into America, and the resulting moments between him, Viktor, Dixon, and a fleet of airport security, is pure Spielberg magic. The pacing, the tone, the editing, the delivery of each line. This is what he can do with just a few shots and some dialogue, akin to what I previously discussed in my Raiders of the Lost Ark article. Much like who the pills end up being for, Spielberg is GOAT.

On the next Movie Daddy, we’re gettin’ back to that ol’ whip and hat man with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.


Mike Burdge


Founder of and programmer for Story Screen. Lover of stories and pizza in the dark. When he isn't watching movies, you can find him reading things about people watching movies. He currently resides in Poughkeepsie, NY, and most assuredly is going through a French Connection phase.