Directed by Steven Spielberg, starring Tom Hanks, Stanley Tucci, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Diego Luna, Chi McBride, Kumar Pallana, Barry Shabaka Henley and Zoe Saldana.

Arriving in the US from his Eastern European homeland of Krakozhia, Viktor Navorski's (Hanks) great American adventure gets as far as passport control and immigration chief Frank Dixon (Tucci). It seems that while Viktor was in the air, there has been a coup in Krakozhia. As a result, the US will no longer recognise the country and the new arrival is trapped in a citizenship limbo. He can't go home and because he has no papers he can't enter the US either. Dixon orders Viktor his only option is to remain in the international departures terminal until the situation becomes clearer.

But hours become days, then weeks and months, with Viktor only seeing real life through sliding doors and having to make the terminal his home. Faced with a war-torn homeland and a totally unsympathetic Dixon, he adapts. He finds ways to earn a living, makes friends with airport employees (Luna, McBride and Pallana) and falls in love with a beautiful flight attendant (Zeta-Jones) whose life is even more mixed-up than Viktor's.

The lightness of touch that worked so well for Spielberg for 'Catch Me If You Can' is again in evidence in 'The Terminal', a feelgood if forgettable look at people whose lives are in transit. In one of those life-art crossovers, this turns out to be the perfect movie for watching on an aeroplane: it's sweet, funny and would take your mind off the legroom, the queue for the toilet or the person next to you. But chances are, by the time you arrive at baggage reclaim, you won't remember too much about it - or might be buckling under the illusion that dealing with immigration officials can be a life-affirming experience.

Serving up a fair bit of ham (comedy accent, bungling) as part of this in-flight entertainment, Hanks is still likeable as Viktor, a man whose American Dream turns out to be one of the most interesting but rushed parts of the film. And with Zeta-Jones' character excess baggage (looks nice on your arm, but really didn't need to be brought along), it's left to two of the supporting cast to be the real stars here. Tucci is brilliant as pompous little emperor Dixon - you'll watch him and know you've crossed paths with him under fluorescent lights somewhere - while Pallana rises above the film's racial stereotypes to give a performance that's just as deadpan memorable as his turn in 'The Royal Tenenbaums'.

Loosely based on the true story of Merhan Karimi Nasseri, the man who calls Charles de Gaulle airport home, 'The Terminal' emerges at such a time and in such a climate in the US that no-one was expecting anything as close to life as 'Dirty Pretty Things'. But, that said, Spielberg has missed the chance to tackle some tougher questions in between the smiles and tears. Viktor's final decision may be a little unexpected, the rest of this film is anything but.

Harry Guerin