Review: A Hologram for the King

Based on a novel by Dave Eggers, Tom Hanks plays a salesman going through a midlife crisis. His marriage is basically kaput, and he’s currently in Saudi Arabia to hopefully keep his career afloat. Working for a tech company, he’s in Saudi Arabia to oversee the implementation of IT service for the local royalty. Once there he finds his team are forced to prepare for their presentation in the hot sun in a mere tent. However, that may not be a problem because a) Wi-Fi appears to be down anyway, and b) His client appears to be very hard to track down. In the meantime, Hanks spends his time communicating with his adult daughter back home from time to time, and relationships with two women; A local doctor (Sarita Choudhury) whom he visits with a bizarre cyst on his back, and a Danish contractor who also happens to be in Saudi Arabia. Tom Skerritt appears briefly as Hanks’ disappointed father, whilst Alexander Black plays Hanks’ local driver.

A box-office flop for Tom Hanks and writer-director Tom Tykwer (“Run Lola Run”, “The International”), this 2016 flick narrowly manages to overcome the fact that it’s awfully similar to (and slightly inferior to) “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”. Worthy of a soft recommendation, I nonetheless can see why people didn’t exactly flock to see it. It’s watchable, Hanks (who apparently loved the novel) makes for a convincingly slick but affable salesman, Alexander Black is outstanding in support, but the romance between Hanks and Sarita Choudhury would’ve worked better if the film had enough time in its 90 minutes to properly develop it. The acting can’t be faulted (even Sidse Babett Knudsen is far less wooden here than on “Westworld” in a somewhat irrelevant role), but it’s an amusing film with at least that one serious reservation holding it back from being more. It’s certainly a great-looking film (mostly shot in Morocco), and the soundtrack is fun too. It’s also surprisingly funny, especially early on. The opening scene with Hanks referencing Talking Heads’ ‘Once in a Lifetime’ is pretty hilarious.

Objectively a pretty good film, but so closely resembling “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” (a better film) far too often for me to be entirely enthusiastic in my recommendation for this one. Good performances help, especially Alexander Black, who is hilarious and extremely likeable.

Rating: B-


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