Saturday 7 July 2018

A Hologram for the King

Once more, the presence of Tom Hanks raises a mediocre story and film to a disproportionate level. He plays a salesman from America who, having previously gained some success is currently experiencing failure, discontent and frustration with his current firm. This is in part due to the Chinese cutting costs and driving businesses in the west to the wall and in part due to stuff going on in his private and family life. He has now been entrusted with the task of sealing the deal on a big contract with his current employer, presenting some new IT technology to the King of Saudi Arabia, which might help to turn things around.

The setting is the largely barren but beautiful Saudi landscape, the backdrop of incredible wealth of a nation moving forward, the further frustration of the VIPs in Saudi repeatedly failing to attend the presentation, the loneliness, waiting and isolation in a dull hotel and to cap it all, a newly discovered growth appearing on our hero’s back. In many ways it has a feel about it of Bill Murray’s Lost in Translation.

It’s a film which is largely about culture and value bases, differences in approach and the climate within which people live, the effect of crime and punishment, religious segregation and a much different, slower pace of everything. It also introduces an unlikely love story sub-plot, an ex-pat sub-culture of party life and banned alcohol and a meandering off into the rural unprivileged life of other parts of the Saudi population who live in the outbacks.

There are three main players. Hanks of course, who didn’t seem stretched in the way we know he can be. He always seems to play the ordinary bloke with ordinary problems in life so well that he can do it in his sleep! Then there’s Sarita Chaudhury (Lady in the Water, A Perfect Murder, The Hunger Games, Homeland) as one of the local doctors and the relatively unknown Alexander Black playing the local taximan. They, and the others around Hanks, played their parts adequately, nothing to complain about. The scenery and landscape, underwater photography and vast buildings were all shot interestingly, though direction by Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, Cloud Atlas) was often uninspiring.

That’s about it really. It’s quite slow and dour in many ways, but perhaps this helps to give the audience a feel for what it’s like to actually get anything moving or done in the region and how any outsiders who might be involved just have to wait patiently for it to happen. To be perfectly honest, I don’t think I would have stuck with it if Hanks had not been in it, but that’s a recurring theme, as I’ve said in other reviews recently. It’s a pleasant enough film and I'm glad I did, but won’t stick in the memory for long. I secured this on a 99p Google Play Movies Special Offer, but available elsewhere too.

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