Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A cure for the Terminally ill

When Tom Hanks isn't rockin' the mullet and chasing down the Pope's evil henchmen, he is actually a fantastic actor. Tonight we watched "The Terminal" (Directed by Spielberg) and I was reminded why I so respect Hanks as an artist committed to his craft. In this post-9/11 romantic comedy, the airport is not simply a traveler's purgatory. Victor Navorski (Hanks) is unable to leave JFK for complicated reasons and somehow finds a wandering Amelia (Catherine Zeta-Jones). Love fills the stale, airport air. Soon the entire airport, staff included, begins to feel the love.

Every subtle move, every twitch, slip, fall, wink, and laugh from Victor convinces you that he is indeed a friend. Amelia's character, however, leaves much to be desired. We couldn't tell if it was her character or just Jones' acting, but Amelia is downright annoying. Then again, maybe that's the point.

"The Terminal" is a love story, a movie about love's life-altering effects. It's also a movie about humanity. Amelia is a flawed flight attendant who cannot keep herself from the arms of married, middle-aged men. Victor is a fun-loving, easygoing foreigner whose social and verbal faux pas are simply cute. You find yourself almost hating Amelia for her, how do I put this, flakiness. She constantly runs from Victor and he constantly pursues her. Is that stupidity or love, or both?

Victor is unmistakably Christ-like. Everyone who comes into contact with Victor can't help but melt in his presence. Even the hardened Homeland Security chief learns compassion from the pesky outsider. Despite the heavy hand of the law and countless setbacks, Victor is on a mission. His entire purpose for coming to the US is to fulfill his father's will and obtain one final autograph for a Jazz collection. The journey away from home is a labor of love.

Even though he is stuck in an airport terminal for some time, Victor does not lose sight of his mission and loves along the way. He helps to arrange a marriage, he befriends his Indian enemy, and he even sacrifices himself for his friends at the end of the movie. Furthermore, Victor pursues Amelia in all of her imperfections. He woos Amelia, but she can only run. He builds her a fountain and offers her new life, she receives Victor and then runs some more. Amelia tells Victor to "stay away" because she is poisonous. Victor does only what he knows to do: love and pursue.

Towards the end of the movie, even while Amelia is in the arms of another, Victor sacrifices himself for his friends. His friends, following his example of love, reciprocate and it seems the entire world takes notice. As Victor passes from the somewhat torturous airport setting, Amelia passes him on her way to yet another flight. The look they give each other is one of, "We'll meet again." Amelia is not in Victor's arms by the movie's end, but love still wins. Although she is still a wanton women painfully moving through life, her encounter with Victor clearly changes her.

When you think about it, it is quite a gutsy move to make such a film only three years after the Twin Towers fell. In 2004, people still stopped and looked up when an airplane flew over and the airport was still a place of great anxiety. This movie, however, was filmed at a time when our country needed hope. We were involved in a gruesome war overseas and, despite our government's best efforts, our homeland did not feel so secure. The idea of an outsider revealing his love and irrupting into our world with compassion, not hate, gives us peace.

I worshipped tonight while watching this movie because I am Amelia. I have the hope that love wins out over all of my mistakes. I believe that an outsider can teach me more about my world than one thousand insiders. I hope you can watch this movie soon and find the person of Jesus in Victor Navorski.