Tuesday, May 16, 2017

A Hologram for the King: A Satisfying Movie Worth Watching at Least Once

Movie Review: A Hologram for the King (2016)
Version: Library Borrow

Tom Hanks is always fun to watch, almost always a friendly face on the movie screen. It is equally so in A Hologram for the King, where he once again plays an underdog, one more than equal to the challenge.

Hanks plays Alan, a former powerful CEO who once sent jobs from Schwinn Bikes to China and now finds himself in a much reduced role at a different company as a simple salesman going to Saudi Arabia to sell American IT services to a powerful king. What he runs into are jet lag, cultural missteps, systemic roadblocks, and a health scare all that threaten to foil his efforts, but in the process introduces him to new friends and an unexpected love interest.

Alexander Black is smart as Yousef, a driver for hire who helps Alan over his many cultural and physical setbacks. Satira Choudury is brilliant as Zahra, a woman doctor who treats Alan's health malady; despite cultural taboos about unsupervised men and women sharing such intimate space, they become very close.

In a way, A Hologram for the King reminds me a lot of Lost in Translation, with Bill Murray in the leading role. In this instance, it's Tom Hanks lost in an Arabic and Islamic world trying to translate a world of language, religious, cultural, and feminine cues in the search for the big business score. Like Bill Murray, Hanks is all charm and character but succumbs to his human instincts in ways that both seem to bring relief to his frustrations yet also force him to the brink of failure. Hanks handles it with a familiar patina of humor and grace.

The script isn't as interesting as the visuals, with their  sweeping desert panoramas, seascapes, and busy cityscapes. What do words matter anyway, right? It's the situations and Hank's reactions that make this film. All come together to create a satisfying movie worth watching at least once.

I don't have a rating system as many review sites do, but if I did, I would give A Hologram for the King a solid 4. Honestly, I can't think of a bad Tom Hanks film, and this definitely wouldn't be one of them.

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