Tom Hanks takes his patented American-everyman act for another spin in director Tom Tykwer’s A Hologram for the King, and once again makes playing an average person look effortless, which in turn helps this pleasant little project itself glide right along—and almost makes you want to move to Saudi Arabia.
Based on the same-titled novel by Dave Eggers, it follows a washed-up, recently divorced American businessman (Hanks) in 2010 as he arrives in Saudi Arabia—in the midst of America’s economic recession—in a desperate bid to sell to its government a holographic teleconferencing system sold by his company.
In terms of tone, it reminded me of Hanks’ Larry Crowne (which he both directed and starred in), which also deals with a man enduring a major life crisis, and how going to a new place/trying something different/meeting new people helps him resolve his issues. The main difference here, of course, is the country (where one really shouldn’t joke about being a CIA agent).
Aside from the opening scenes set to the Talking Heads song “Wild Wild Life”—a visually inventive sequence detailing how Hanks’ character’s life went off the rails—and some stuff involving a lump Hanks finds on his back (don’t worry, benign), the film generally stays in amusing territory as Hanks deals with presentation glitches and delays and thinks about his daughter.
The character’s troubles (which lead him to drink a lot) do give the movie just a little bit of an edge, however, and keep it from sinking into sentimentality. Per usual, Hanks remains extremely likable, smoothly switching between amusingly frazzled and serious. He generally does the latter as he carefully becomes involved with a female Saudi doctor (Sarita Choudhury, excellent).
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the film is Hanks’ friendship with his Saudi driver (Alexander Black), a wonderfully entertaining and thoughtful character who’s always checking his car for bombs. I looked forward to their scenes together. Beyond that, cast-wise, Hanks’ Cloud Atlas co-star Ben Whishaw makes a brief appearance, as does dependable ol’ Tom Skerritt as Hanks’ father. – [DVD] [Blu-Ray]
DVD Release Date: 8/10/16