Film Review: A Hologram for the King

Rom-com come critique of twentieth century economics and xenophobia (quite the combination), A Hologram for the King is the new feature film from German writer/director Tom Tykwer (Run Lola, Run) and explores how happiness and redemption can often be found in the most unlikely of places.

The film centres around Alan Clay (Tom Hanks), a fifty-something failed American businessman sent on assignment to the Middle East to close out the deal of his career – selling a state-of-the-art holographic teleconferencing system to the King of Saudi Arabia. The minute Alan arrives he is a fish out of water (in the middle of the desert, no less) and struggles to adjust to the completely alien Saudi way of doing things. Constantly on the back foot due to ill health, secret hangovers, pressures from back home and the continual no-show of the King, Alan finds an unlikely friend in taxi driver Yousef (played by the excellently cast Alexander Black) and a medicine to his melancholy in the form of beautiful and sympathetic female doctor Zahra Hakem (Sarita Shoudhury).

Based on the novel of the same name by Dave Eggers, the film — like many adaptations — tries to fit too much into its 98 minute running time, with numerous characters and sub-plots introduced over the course of the film that distract from – rather than contribute to – the story line. Important themes worthy of exploration are merely touched on, back stories half-told and obscure characters featured, presumably in an effort to reference as many of the major events in the book as possible but ultimately resulting in several loose ends that are irritatingly left unresolved by the films disappointingly anti-climactic ending.

Those who’ve read the book will likely enjoy the film much more than those who have not, but overall the film is quite enjoyable with a great cast and some laugh out loud moments. Intelligently scrutinising society’s irrational fear and mistrust of ‘the other’, A Hologram for the King successfully demonstrates that despite our perceived differences, we are faced with common challenges on our journey through life irrespective of race, colour or creed. Philosophical and at times bittersweet, A Hologram for the King is a convincing example of how everyone deserves a second chance.

2.5 stars

A Hologram for the King is showing exclusively at Palace Nova cinemas now.

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