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Film Review: A Hologram for the King


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Tom Hanks’ latest nice-guy endeavour falls flat in Tom Tykwer’s A Hologram for the King.

Aiming for a lot and achieving little, the culture clash of America and Saudi Arabia – whilst interesting at first –  doesn’t feel like anything new. Visually stimulating but with little to back this up, it feels fair to say that whilst there are a few redeeming moments to pull the film together; the final product still feels intensely average.

Following all-American Alan (Tom Hanks) as he embarks on a trip to Saudi Arabia, the premise of the film revolves around him attempting to sell his company’s holographic technology to the king – as the title suggests. Along the way he meets a host of charismatic characters and discovers not only the county, but himself (original) – throwing a rose-tinted lens over the whole experience. At home, he has a nasty divorce and a daughter relying on his tuition contributions; in Saudi, he has adventure and happiness. The exotic pulls of quirky friendship, romance and the refreshing taste of change win out every time. That, and contraband alcohol.

The whole thing just feels a little clichéd. The storylines flick and change so frequently that it’s hard to pin the film down as something specific, and don’t go into enough detail or development to create something new. A sad sign is that by the end of the hour and a half run time, it felt like much longer had passed. Too many sequences were lost to obscurity, and too many times was the absent king …absent. The same scenario every day feels a little tedious after a while, and whilst the point may be that the king isn’t there and this city isn’t built and the wifi is rubbish – it becomes a little too elongated with every rehashed action and every repeated conversation.

With regards to the actors; Tom Hanks is great as he is playing literal Tom Hanks, Yousef the novelty taxi driver (Alexander Black) injects some vibrancy, and Sarita Choudhury makes for a sentimental love interest. But throwing a bunch of good ingredients together doesn’t guarantee a good cake. Hologram seems to not know what to do with all the gifts handed to it – Hanks in particular being a saving grace.

Alexander Berner’s fantastic eye for editing also suffers at the hands of Tykwer’s inability to focus: the choppy illusions and technology-to-reality warping are expertly executed, but erratically deployed throughout. It felt more like a fall back to keep the audience awake and engaged rather than advancing the film conceptually, as it definitely could have. I mean, at the end of the day, I just really wanted more things to explode into pink smoke.

Overall, it has to be said that the mid-life crisis of Tom Hanks’ everyman has been done before, and it will be done again. Yes, we love him – but putting him in another country and running the same narrative around him over and over can only go so far. There are some golden moments, there are some touching moments, and there are some hilarious moments; but they need to be supported by more than what can only be deemed as ‘filler.’

A Hologram for the King was released on digital platforms on 12th September and will be available on Blu-ray and DVD from 19th September, 2016 courtesy of Icon Film Distribution.

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