A good, solid piece of what they used to call Capracorn. A decent man is trapped in a no-win situation, makes the best of it, is rescued by the friends he has made along the way. Tom Hanks is as good as he always is.
I almost wish I hadn’t known that the vast terminal of the story was actually one of the larger movie sets ever built. That meant that, because I’m fascinated by the nuts and bolts of how movie magic gets made, the day-to-day hard work that is involved, I was continually looking around in the backgrounds, the ceilings, watching the set and the tides of extras necessary to bring this movie to life.
I found myself thinking like a line producer, which is the guy who is actually there at the front lines making it all happen, as cheaply as possible, as opposed to the names on the screen who are really back in Hollywood writing checks and making more deals. It must have been a real bitch. So much of the set had to be “practical,” that is, actually working, and most of it had to be built in great detail, not just to look realistic from a distance. Many scenes were shot with the vast, teeming terminal in the background, and every time you see that you know there are assistant directors hidden just out of sight, stopwatches in hand, telling the extras when to enter so all the shots will match. Then the director yells “cut!” and “get ready for take seventeen!” and everybody goes back to their places and starts all over again.
One bright spot: companies will gladly build a store for you and stock it, all for free, just to get their trademarks and logos and products in a major motion picture. There were many dozens of shops here, so many that Spielberg had to make the providers agree that they understood there was no guarantee their brand-name would appear in the movie at all, if it edited that way. They were still glad to oblige, and many of the restaurants had actual working kitchens, which must have come in handy when it came time to feed all those extras …