Indie Film Review “A Hologram For The King”

A Hologram For The King3 A Hologram For The King2 A Hologram For The King1


First, the Recap:

When something is lost, our first motive, usually, is to make every effort to relocate and reacquire that which was misplaced. But so often, when what has been missing is simply our own sense of who we are, what our purpose is, and how we are to move on from life’s hard circumstances–well, that can be a challenge not easily won. American businessman Alan (Tom Hanks) finds himself in such a place. Having done a previous sales deal at a former employer which ultimately went south, the current company Alan works for sends him to Saudi Arabia with intentions of making an impactful and profitable deal with the King there for implementation of revolutionary new IT technology.

Severely out of his overall element and knowing his own financial future, plus that of his company and even his daughter Kit (Tracey Fairaway), rests on the deal’s success. Once in country, Alan’s exposure to KSA culture and life quickly begins to take its toll, as the promised availability of both the King and his primary business associate becomes less than reliable. Facing stresses on all sides from the deal to his life back home, only a local driver Yousef (Alexander Black) keeps Alan grounded enough to function. However, when events finally get to Alan in a harsher way, his meeting with and treatment via a Saudi doctor, Zahra (Sarita Choudhury), brings an unexpected connection and a new lease on life for a beleaguered soul.

Next, my Mind:

Based on the novel of the same name by author Dave Eggers and directed by Tom Tykwer, the film ends up being a mixed bag for this reviewer. Having not read the novel, I can only make the normal assumptions that much of the material is missing in the film version, so it has to be taken at face value. The story is a slower-paced dramatic effort, with mild humor interweaved throughout much of its first act, which effectively livens things up. But make no mistake, this is actually a very heavy narrative for the majority of the time, and a sharp testament to the strains life can place on us and how we choose to deal with them. Visually, the atmosphere and tones of existence in the KSA is quite vivid and paints a sobering image of a country both rich in culture yet in strife in the midst of finding its identity via modernization.

Hanks’ enacting of Alan is one of the only really complete benefits to the film, however, as so much of the greater story is rather “blah”. Hanks is so adept and playing the roles he chooses, that watching the heavily emotive and “everyman” demeanor he brings to Alan’s character is great. Add to this Black’s very humorous and entertaining turn as local “guide” Yousef, whose paranoia about someone being after him is quite amusing in his initial scenes, and Choudhury’s Zahra who becomes that light and love for Alan that he was never seeking out but so desperately needed, is endearing in its culture clash way.  Beyond these individual performances, though, “A Hologram For The King” fails in that it is an independent film somehow striving to be a bigger film than it really is or has the ability to be.

With some crude language and moreso a totally gratuitous scene of nudity, this is one effort that only survives thanks to Hank’s presence, which even then, doesn’t one hundred percent save it. One can only hope, however, that Hanks might continue to explore more small, indie projects, as it would be a revelation to see the big time star show off his superb acting chops in that medium and via a more well rounded and executed film.

As always, this is all for your consideration and comment.  Until next time, thank you for reading!

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