It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks have made, in "The Terminal," a sweet and delicate comedy, a film to make you hold your breath, it is so precisely devised. It has big laughs, but it never seems to make an effort for them; it knows exactly, minutely and in every detail who its hero is and remains absolutely consistent to what he believes and how he behaves.
The hero is named Viktor Navorski. He has arrived in a vast American airport just as his nation, Krakozia, has fallen in a coup. Therefore his passport and visa are worthless, his country no longer exists, and he cannot go forward or go back. Dixon the customs official (Stanley Tucci) tells him he is free to remain in the International Arrivals Lounge, but forbidden to step foot on American soil.
This premise could have yielded a film of contrivance and labored invention. Spielberg, his actors and writers (Sacha Gervasi and Jeff Nathanson) weave it into a human comedy that is gentle and true, that creates sympathy for all of its characters, that finds a tone that will carry them through, that made me unreasonably happy.
There is a humanity in its humor that reminds you of sequences in Chaplin or Keaton where comedy and sadness find a fragile balance. It has another inspiration, the work of the French actor-filmmaker Jacques Tati. Spielberg gives Hanks the time and space to develop elaborate situations like those Tati was always getting himself into, situations where the lives of those around him became baffling because of Tati's own profound simplicity.