A Hologram for the King, written and directed by Tom Tykwer and based on the book of the same name by Dave Eggers, is a comedy-drama that tells the story of Alan Clay (Tom Hanks), a washed up American businessman who travels to Saudi Arabia in order to sell holographic technology to the king.
Clay is depressed, after a messy divorce and some poor business decisions have left him unable to provide for his daughter’s college education. When the trip to Saudi Arabia ends up being way longer than expected, he finds himself learning about the land and its culture, and trying to work through his problems with the help of some newfound friends.
A Hologram for the King feels a lot like comfort food in movie form. It’s mildly amusing, reasonably emotionally engaging and it doesn’t overstay its welcome. It’s not particularly memorable, but there’s enough going on to hold your interest.
Having Tom Hanks as your leading man goes a long way to make what is an otherwise rather unremarkable midlife crisis story feel engaging. Saudi Arabia itself also adds quite a bit of flavor to the movie. The cross-cultural tension and the beautiful landscapes help A Hologram for the King carve out a more distinct identity for itself.
There are a few missteps. A running joke about Clay sitting down, only for the chair to break, causing him to fall on his ass fails to get any kind of laugh and there are a few sequences that are just oddly shot and edited. They’re jarring and not necessarily in the way they might have been intended to be. The opening sequence for instance, is a weird recap of Alan’s troubled life, framed as an advertisement with a surreal twist. Stylistically, it doesn’t match the rest of the film at all.
The ending is a little disappointing as well, mainly because the narration that bookends the story glosses over quite a lot of fairly important events for Clay, both personally and professionally, which makes it feel a bit rushed.
Overall, A Hologram for the King is not a bad movie, but it’s not a great one either. It’s a good movie that has enough going for it to keep you interested from start to finish, and that’s about it.
Dir: Tom Tykwer
Scr: Tom Tykwer
Cast: Tom Hanks, Alexander Black, Sarita Choudhury, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Ben Whishaw, Tom Skerritt
Prd: Stefan Arndt, Gary Goetzman, Arcadiy Golubovich, Tom Hanks, Uwe Schott, Tim O’Hair
Country: United States
Runtime: 97 Minutes
A Hologram for the King was released on May 20th, 2016 and is in cinemas now.