5 Plot Point Breakdown: The Terminal (2004)

By Xiaofeng Chen · January 22, 2015

Screenplay Genre: Romantic, Drama, Comedy

Movie Time: 128 minutes

The New York Airports are always busy. Every day thousands of passengers arrive in this city with whatever reason: travel, business, or pleasure. But one day a strange visitor draws attention of the customs officer: His name is Viktor Navorsiki (Tom Hanks), a middle age hayseed from Krakozhiya: an eastern Europe country. His passport fails on the Capture and Identify System and he can hardly speak English. He’s also always holding a tin can in his hand (aka his father’s cremation urn). Eventually, he is taken to Frank Dixon (Stanley Tucci): the director of Customs and Border Protection.


Frank Dixon tells Viktor Navorsiki his country Krakozhiya is undergoing a civil war: the old government is overturned so his passport is not good anymore. And the new government still no has a relationship with US. That means Viktor is now a citizen of nowhere and he can’t enter into America (7:20). But Navorsiki, with an intense language barrier, doesn’t understand what Frank has told him. He keeps chattering that he is going to the Ramada 161 Lexington, but can’t tell why he is going there. The officers have no idea how to deal with him, and at last they abandon him in the International Transit Lounge of the airport: it’s an area out of American soil by law. They tell Navorsiki not to enter the doors to America and he can’t turn back to home either. The only thing he can do is stay in the terminal and wait for the situation to change.

2. LOCK IN (End of Act One)

Viktor gets lost and confused in the International Transit Lounge. He still doesn’t get what’s happening. He sees the news about the war in Krakozhia and finally understands the truth he is facing: He is trapped here. (13:50)

Viktor realizes he has to survive in the terminal with no money, no residence and no identity. After some initial failures, he finds out how to live in the terminal: He makes his living in an abandoned quarter of gate 67, and figures out a way to collect coins by recycling carts so he can get the money to buy food. He settles down here, and even makes some new friends: the old cleaner Mulroy (Chi Mcbride) who’s from India. Latino Enrique Cruz (Diego Luna), the luggage car driver. And a beautiful airline stewardess Amelia Warren (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who is a fan of Napoleon.

Frank sees none of this and looks at Viktor as a problem that he must remove. He temps Viktor into escaping, and offers him to request a political asylum by condemning his mother country; he even ruins his way of collecting coins. But Viktor refuses to give in and lives in the airport strongly. He gets a new job with the airport fitment team, earning more money than Frank does. And everyday he goes to CBO officer Torres to request to enter America in an official way, the answer is always “Denied.”


One day a crisis breaks out: Another man from Krakozhiya is captured by the customs officers because he’s carrying medicine out of America without license. This man can’t understand English and the two sides’ lack of communication morphs into confrontation. Frank has to ask Viktor for help. Viktor tells his countryman he can’t carry the medicine without the license. The man kneels down before the American officers, tells them the medicine is for his dying father, cries and and begs them to let him go. Everybody is sympathetic, but Frank is still not touched. Viktor thinks of an idea: He tells the man to claim the pills are for his goats. Because according to American Law those would not need a license. The man does as he told and gets away with the pills. (73:50) After that, Viktor becomes the hero of the airport and gets the nickname: “Goat.”

Viktor and Amelia become closer by talking about Napoleon. They have dinner in Viktor’s living quarter and Amelia tells Viktor that she has been waiting ten years to marry her boyfriend. They find they’re all waiting for something in their lives and decide to stop it: They throw away their pagers (aka “distractions”).

4. MAIN CULMINATION (End of Act Two)

Viktor helps Enrique propose to Torres. Torres accepts. The couple’s happiness encourages Viktor to pursue Amelia. When Amelia comes back again, she sees the gift Viktor makes for her: it’s a beautiful shining fountain on the wall. Amelia asks Viktor who he is and why he is here. Viktor shows her his can: inside it are all the signatures of musicians. Viktor tells Amelia his father was a jazz fan (understatement) and he wanted to collect 57 famous jazz musicians’ signatures, starting in 1958. He got 56 of them before he died; he was short one: Benny Golson, the saxophone player. Viktor came to New York to get the last signature for his dead father, but now he finds the real reason he is here is for Amelia. Amelia is touched and they fall in love with each other(101:58).


The next morning Viktor wakes up, finds Amelia’s gone and there is good news: The civil war in Krakozhia’s ended. He can go home now!

Frank wants Viktor to go home as fast as he can, but Viktor still washes to go to New York to get Benny Golson’s signature. Amelia gets a one day tour pass for Viktor, but Frank refuses to sign it. He threatens Victor to go home immediately or his friend Mulroy will be deported to India. Viktor has to give in, but Mulroy wouldn’t hinder Viktor. He runs to the runway and stops an aircraft from taking off. Then he is arrested by the police and deported to his country.

Viktor goes to “the doors to America.” His way is blocked by security. Frank orders Officer Judge to arrest Viktor. But Judge doesn’t do as he told and gives his coat to Viktor and tells him it’s snowing outside. Then he lets him go through the door. (144:45)

Viktor finally enters America. He tours the amazing city New York and finds the Ramada Hotel. There he sees Benny Golson and gets his signature as planned!

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