Tom Hanks is normally a pretty safe bet. I can’t really remember the last time a project he was involved with was a complete train wreck, and even in the films he’s made that aren’t quite as good, he never gives a bad performance. Now jump to about two months ago, when the trailer for A Hologram for the King was released, and the overall reaction to it was pretty mixed to say the least. I will admit, nothing about it particularly grabbed me, and were it not for Hanks’s involvement, I probably wouldn’t have been interested at all.
Alan is at a low point in his life. His family is unstable, his career is at a standstill, and he may not be in the best health. Because of a chance meeting, the company he works for chooses him to go to Saudi Arabia in an effort to pitch their new hologram technology to the King, hoping he’ll want to implement it across a new city that’s being built from the ground up. When he gets there, things don’t exactly go to plan, and what should have been a simple pitch turns into elongated stay.
I’ve been deliberately vague with my synopsis, and that’s because I knew very little going in, and it really helped my enjoyment of this film. From the very first scene it goes to unexpected places, and there are reveals that consistently hit the viewer. The best part is the subtlety of how everything is handled. We’re shown a lot of things, but are left to put the pieces together ourselves, and at no point are you never beaten over the head with anything.
Tom Hanks is of course excellent, but the real star of the film is Alexander Black (who’s making his feature film debut), who starts the film as comic relief, but also provides a lot of heart, and a surprisingly complex character arc for a supporting role. A Hologram for the King does lose it’s way for around ten minutes near the end, but it doesn’t detract much from what is overall an enjoyable film.
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