Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Review: A Hologram for the King


Tom Hanks continues to chug along as America's favorite actor.  Even in movies that have no other major stars such as A Hologram for the King, Hanks keeps delivering the every-man performance time and time again.  Audiences are easily able to relate to him and at the ripe young age of 59,
Hanks single-handedly helps make Hologram a pleasant movie that portrays the fish-out-of-water nature of a global businessman.

Directed by Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run, Cloud Atlas - another Hanks vehicle), Hologram centers on Alan Clay (Hanks), a failed businessman assigned to broker a deal with a rich Saudi king in the Middle East.  Clay represents a fictional IT firm who is planning to pitch a virtual hologram powered method of remote meeting communication software to the Saudis. The film pretty much starts with Clay landing in Saudi Arabia where he must navigate the cultural differences and prepare for a unscheduled upcoming technology demonstration meeting with the king.

This movie does a good job of portraying IT business travel.  As someone who has spent many a week working on-site for a client around the world, I was able to empathize with the perils that Clay had to tackle.  Spotty WiFi, limited food for his staff and both language and climate issues are some of the challenges depicted in the film.  The way that Clay tackles these issues as well as issues with a failed marriage and a relationship with his daughter back in the USA makes up the majority of the key plot points.  Through an unusual bump/cyst that Clay develops, he ends up starting a relationship with a Saudi female doctor (Sarita Choudhury).  (I found it particularly nasty that Tykwer chose to focus on that cyst so much.  There are many sequences that show Clay and other doctors try to cut into the infection and it's all very unnecessary and extremely disgusting to watch.)  The chemistry between Hanks and Choudhury is slow-building but works in the end to help ground the story for Clay.

This movie is not ground breaking and is not even all that interesting at times.  But with Hanks at the wheel we can't help but feel for his Andy character.  The end of this movie is a bit open ended and the supporting acting (especially the team of IT consultants that Hanks manages) is very wooden.  This is worth a rental however if only for a decently realistic look at IT corporate travel.  3 out of 5 JRs for A Hologram for the King, a questionable film choice for Hanks in this stage of his career.  Let's hope he's given a better script and supporting cast next time around.