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The Terminal
Composed, Conducted, and Produced by:
John Williams

Clarinet and Accordion Solos by:
Emily Bernstein
Guy Klusevsky

Orchestrated by:
John Neufeld


Release Date:
June 15th, 2004

Also See:
Catch Me If You Can
The River
Home Alone
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Audio Clips:
1. The Tale of Viktor Navorski (0:34):
WMA (220K)  MP3 (273K)
Real Audio (170K)

3. A Legend is Born (0:28):
WMA (184K)  MP3 (226K)
Real Audio (140K)

13. Destiny... Canneloni (0:33):
WMA (215K)  MP3 (267K)
Real Audio (166K)

14. A Happy Navorski Ending (0:31):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (250K)
Real Audio (155K)

Regular U.S. release.


The Terminal

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Sales Rank: 61617

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Buy it... if you yearn to supplement your collection of dramatic and bombastic John Williams music with a truly spirited, fully orchestral, and infectious comedy score highlighted by an irresistible sense of rhythm and charm.

Avoid it... if you've never been receptive to the short bursts of cutely optimistic comedy and saccharine romance that Williams had inserted as individual cues in his works dating back to the 1980's.

The Terminal: (John Williams) At the time of its release, there was debate about whether director Steven Spielberg's The Terminal was inspired by the true story of an Iranian stuck in France's Charles de Gaulle Airport back in 1988, but regardless of its origins, the concept was certainly a novel one for the big screen in 2004. Viktor Navorski (Tom Hanks) finds himself trapped in a New York airport terminal because war has broken out in his native Eastern European nation (literally while he was on his flight from that country to America) and his passport and other documentation is therefore no longer valid. Unable to be sent back and unable to be allowed out of the terminal, Navorski lives a portion of his life trapped in the airport, becoming a fond fixture for employees and even sparking a romance with a flight attendant (Catherine Zeta-Jones). Rather than making the film one of horror and frustration (which, as any of you stuck in an airport for a day or two will know, is a believable nightmare), Spielberg extended the inventive and funny aspects of Hanks' character to achieve a light-hearted and spirited comedy. Audiences didn't buy it, however, and The Terminal has since become one of the director's more obscure footnotes. It represented the 21st collaboration between Spielberg and composer John Williams, finally a long overdue opportunity for the two artists to produce the sounds of pure fun and romantic comedy not restrained by the typically elevated melodrama of Spielberg's usual topics of interest. The previous collaboration between Spielberg and Williams, Catch Me If You Can, was likewise a relief from their futuristic, post-2000 sci-fi endeavors, however you'd have to go back to the early to mid-1990's to hear Williams pull truly unhindered, lighthearted material out of his hat. It would be easy to state that The Terminal is by far the brightest comedic effort of the composer's latter twenty years of writing, and when looking at his output in the decade of the 2000's (abbreviated because of his semi-retirement after 2005), it blatantly stand out. But collectors of his works may associate it with the jazzy era of Williams' career (centered in the 1960's), when silliness prevailed in many of his smaller-scale scores.

As opposed to the outdated sound of those jazzy 1960's scores by Williams, The Terminal is an ageless comedy because it extends its humor through the timeless classical sounds of Williams' masterful orchestral styles from his prime. Utilizing a personality of Eastern Europe flair that extends through history, The Terminal is a score that could function just as well for an identical story set in 1975 as it would if told in 2025. Paying homage to echoes of the immigration struggles of generations past, Williams does provide the score with the colors of Mediterranean romance and the ethnicity of yesteryear. But the complex construction of the composition is a constant magnet guiding the music back to the current standards of excellence in classical writing that makes Williams' music, usually regardless of genre, accessible to contemporary ears. The composer presents the score in his customary format, a suite-like performance of the Viktor Navorski theme introduced at the beginning and featured in a reprise at the finale. From the first notes, Williams lets listeners know very clearly that the score's personality will be that of a lightly dancing comedy with a perky, adventurous heart. Navorski's theme prevails throughout the score, acting as a lens through which Williams focuses the entire work. As opposed to Williams' nearly concurrent score for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which presents brilliant ideas all over the musical spectrum but loses a dominant focus overall, The Terminal is extremely consistent in its thematic loyalty and Williams' thankfully diligent refusal to allow the tone to become too serious at any point. The highlights of the score are the moments during which free-flowing rhythms established by strings are joined the woodwinds delicately stating the score's melodies above them. Often starting with solo clarinet and expanding to a guitar and accordion, the theme is extremely infectious in its bubbly enthusiasm even though its elusive progressions and accelerated pace of movement make it difficult to whistle the tune once it has passed (especially in its remarkably twisting interlude sequence). The clarinet performances in the primary suite are extremely affable and finely enunciated (thank goodness it wasn't the nasal tone of an oboe!), leading to an atmosphere of delight, friendship, and curious innocence that lifts your mood with its ceaselessly optimistic charm.

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Glimpses of this form of comedy writing from Williams had been heard before, often as part of his music for children's films, but never on the score-wide scale heard in The Terminal. Even detractors of accordions could marvel at the rapidly key-changing performances of the instrument here, dancing with the same precision as those of the lead clarinet (and even outperforming the clarinet in the suite performances). The accordion is really the only specialty instrument in the score, but Williams proves that he can write Luis Bacalov music (as in "A Happy Navorski Ending") just as well as Bacalov can, complete with the rumble of the piano emphasizing passing bars of the theme. The piano is central element in The Terminal, performing the elegant, though rather short love theme heard first in "Dinner With Amelia." A touch of the broad romance from Sabrina is reprised in this idea, but this time with far more spirit boosting its fuller performances. Particular cues of note include "A Legend is Born," in which Williams opens with a timpani and broad brass style of the 1980's that blossoms into a Western-like motif of high adventure, and the lesser cousin of that material in "Looking for Work." In "Refusing to Escape," Williams inserts a token nod to Bernard Herrmann, shifting into the composer's trademark quivering strings and offering a short performance of the Cape Fear theme at 1:38. In "Gupta's Deliverance," Williams extends his instrumentation briefly into the realm of the electronic choir. The rambling figures of "Finding Coins and Learning to Read" remind of the homely tone of The River. The source piece, "Krakozhia National Anthem," is appropriately pompous in its militaristic progressions. The overall personality of The Terminal, however, is summed up by the "Destiny" finale cue, in which Williams builds to a momentous statement of the love theme and then unleashes Navorski's theme in all its glory. The emotional balance of the score is strong, the romantic elements often maintaining some skip in their step that maintains the overarching, rhythmic movement of the entire score. Overall, The Terminal is about as likable a Williams score as you will ever encounter. The sound quality is outstanding (significant reverb has been applied for the album recording), with the head-spinning clarinet and accordion performances mixed magnificently. As the maestro approached his late 2000's retirement, it was great to hear Williams pull off a truly mature comedy while maintaining the spirit of an eight-year-old, and the infectious result is highly recommended to any film music listener in search of an instant mood perk. ***** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For John Williams reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.74 (in 69 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.59 (in 337,529 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

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   Re: sheet music
  Farshad -- 6/20/14 (4:48 a.m.)
   Terrible movie, just o.k. score
  Bernardo -- 5/28/12 (4:01 a.m.)
   Re: sheet music
  Snoozepie -- 6/11/10 (2:32 p.m.)
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   Brass Section (Hollywood Studio Symphony)
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 57:58

• 1. The Tale of Viktor Navorski (4:12)
• 2. Dinner wIth Amelia (8:02)
• 3. A Legend is Born (3:16)
• 4. Viktor and his Friends (4:43)
• 5. The Fountain Scene (5:33)
• 6. The Wedding of Officer Torres (5:01)
• 7. Jazz Autographs (3:45)
• 8. Refusing to Escape (3:01)
• 9. Krakozhia National Anthem and Homesickness (1:49)
• 10. Looking for Work (3:17)
• 11. Gupta's Deliverance (3:18)
• 12. Finding Coins and Learning to Read (4:02)
• 13. "Destiny"... "Canneloni"... and the Tale of Viktor Navorski Reprise (5:05)
• 14. A Happy Navorski Ending (2:47)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes a note about the score and film from Spielberg, as well as a list of performers.

  All artwork and sound clips from The Terminal are Copyright © 2004, Decca/Universal. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 6/10/04 and last updated 9/22/11. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2004-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.