A Hologram for the King

 

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Tom Hanks is set to surprise his fans with this, the latest film derived from a novel by Dave Eggers.

 

Hologram for the King, A

Alan of Arabia: Tom Hanks

 

More often than not a three-star rating indicates that a film has failed to realise its potential, but that’s not the case here. A Hologram for the King is amiable, agreeably quirky and decidedly original, but it is also a slight work, and so clearly is that the case that a higher rating seems inappropriate even though I enjoyed it.

In recent times both Captain Phillips and Bridge of Spies have shown us that Tom Hanks is one of those actors whose screen presence has actually grown as he has aged. But those films were dramas and Hanks’s fans may be taken aback by his role here because this film, written and directed by Tom Tykwer from a Dave Eggers novel, is an off-beat comedy that eventually becomes a romance to appeal to older viewers. Initially he seems uneasy in the role of Alan Clay for Hanks is no Cary Grant and the humour extends to a running gag about chairs collapsing under him (fortunately not typical of the film) and to a distinctly odd opening dream sequence parodying a well-known song.

Happily the film soon settles, and Hanks with it, into a tale of how Alan, a salesman, is sent out to Saudi Arabia to make a presentation to the king. The hope is that his highness will go for the new IT service patented by Alan’s company and offering a holographic telecommunicating system. The difficulty of doing business with the Saudis when appointments set up regularly fail to materialise is central to the comedy which in time brings Alan, a divorcee, into contact with a Danish employee (Sidse Babett Knudsen) and a female doctor (Sarita Choudhury) who treats his back and removes a cyst in her role as surgeon.

There’s an engaging relationship between Alan and his local driver, Youssef (Alexander Black), which puts one in mind of a comparable bond in the film version of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything Is Illuminated (2005). That film cleverly moved from eccentric comedy into serious themes. But, while A Hologram for the King embraces inter-racial romance, it never comes up with anything really meaningful and the comparison underlines the slightness of Tykwer’s film whatever the novel itself may have offered (it becomes increasingly doubtful if Tykwer will ever again match the brilliance of 1998’s Run Lola Run). Nevertheless, A Hologram for the King gains from fine photography in colour and ’Scope which makes much of the unfamiliar setting (in fact the shoot took place in Morocco and in Egypt as well as in Saudi Arabia itself). All in all, I found it a pleasingly unusual diversion, but I remain surprised that Hanks chose to do it.    

 

MANSEL STIMPSON               

 

Cast: Tom Hanks, Alexander Black, Sarita Choudhury, Sadse Babett Knudsen, Tracey Fairaway, Jane Perry, Tom Skerritt, Ben Whishaw.

 

Dir Tom Tykwer, Pro Stefan Arndt, Gary Goetzman, Uwe Schott and others, Screenplay (from the novel by Dave Eggers) Tom Tykwer, Ph Frank Griebe,  Pro Des Uli Hanisch, Ed Alexander Berner, Music Johnny Klimek and Tom Tykwer, Costumes Pierre-Yves Gayraud.

 
X-Filme Creative Pool/Playtone/22h22/Fábrica de Cine etc.-Icon Film Distribution.
98 mins. UK/France/Germany/USA. 2016. Rel: 20 May 2016. Cert. 12A
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