"The Terminal" is far from Steven Spielberg’s best movie, but it’s one of his most interesting. Tom Hanks plays a refugee from a dissolved fictional Soviet state who lands at an international airport, only to find that his now-useless visa does not allow him to legally enter any country. With his former homeland non-existent and no way of applying to enter a new one, he’s forced to live in the airport permanently, with Sbarros’ stands and rows of plastic seats serving as his new home base. Catherine Zeta-Jones eventually shows up as a romantic interest, and the picture flies into rom-com territory.
That’s not what makes "Terminal" so interesting though -- what makes it interesting is the way that Spielberg brings the airport to life. His camera deftly, via long shots, allows us to learn about every nook and cranny of the airport. He’s always watching the characters go up and down escalators, his interest in the space they inhabit as apparent as his interest in the people themselves. The film has occasionally been compared to the bizarre, movement-based comedy practiced in the films of Jacques Tati. That comparison isn’t far off: "The Terminal" may not be one of Spielberg’s finest hours, but it displays him, as a photographer and a director of action, at his technical best.
There’s a number of special features on the recent Blu-ray release of "The Terminal," but they basically just exist to provide background and to sell the movie. We get a photo gallery, a couple of trailers, and six short documentaries (the longest is about 30 minutes, a couple of short ones only run about five). Those featurettes deal with a number of topics, all of them pretty light. One details why Spielberg liked the script in the first place, another looks at the film’s cast (that one is broken into three parts), another deals with the film’s production itself, another with John Williams’ score, and yet another features the cast and crew offering their memories.
The sixth of those featurettes, and the most interesting, looks at the growth of the film’s set -- from production designs and models of the airport to the final, full-sized structure, which was constructed in a hangar. We become conscious of exactly how much detail Spielberg puts into the world’s he films. "The Terminal" is a decidedly light movie. But if you’re looking for proof that Spielberg is just as talented as a formal filmmaker as he is as a national mythmaker, look no further.