Starring: Tom Hanks, Alexander Black, Sarita Choudhury
Director: Tom Tykwer
Running Time: 98 mins
A Hologram For The King is an American film about a divorced middle-aged businessman who is sent to Saudi Arabia to present a new technological system to the king, however problems in his personal life begin to dominate the trip.
As much as we all love Tom Hanks, and as hard as he tries to give a top-quality performance in this film, A Hologram For The King is a real mess. It has some bright spots, including Hanks, the visuals and some of the comedy, but its narrative is absolutely all over the place, making for an extremely confusing watch that really drags on over a relatively short runtime.
But before I get into that, I want to look at the best parts of this movie. I didn’t hate A Hologram For The King, and a large part of that was down to Tom Hanks’ performance. The poor writing means that his and the rest of the cast’s characters are pretty thin and uninteresting, but Hanks in particular does a great job to make his character likeable and enjoyable to watch on screen with a very lively performance.
Without that performance, I’m sure I would have been bored stiff by this film, simply because its story is so poor, but Tom Hanks fortunately delivers highly in an otherwise very mediocre movie, and that’s why I was able to get through the film without it being a painfully dull watch.
Another good thing about this film is the way it looks. Tom Tykwer, although writing a very poor screenplay, does a good job at making this quite an appealing film to look at. Yes, the film isn’t directed in the smoothest way, and its visual storytelling is very wonky. However, on a purely superficial level, the panoramas of the Saudi Arabian desert, the hi-tech hotels and suites, and some very good CGI, are all wonderful to look at.
Despite that, however, the narrative of this film is very bad. Although the story attempts to get you intrigued and sympathetic with Hanks’ character living a dull, monotonous and frustrating live while in Saudi Arabia, the film too often decides to switch back and forth between all different parts of the man’s life, never focussing enough on a clear path throughout the film, which left me completely dumbfounded as to what was actually going on at times.
Basically, although the film’s first act goes by relatively smoothly, by the time we get into the more dramatic stuff, it all begins to unravel. From then on, the film spends ages on various disjointed parts of this man’s life that are contributing to his stress and frustrations at the moment, but then decides not to tie them up before moving onto the next part.
Although the disjointed nature of the story was frustrating, what was most irritating was that the pay-offs from each of these backstories at the end of the film were incredibly unsatisfying. To spend so much time making a big deal out of one theme earlier on in the movie, and to then just pick one to tie up properly and gloss over the others, was hugely annoying to see, and it really made a lot of the previous hour and a half feel like wasted time.
Maybe with a longer runtime, the story could have got back to its other key points, but the fact remains that A Hologram For The King is an messily told, confusing and frustrating movie. It has some positives, thanks to Tom Hanks and some nice visuals, but for the most part, it’s not a film that you’ll likely have a great time watching, and that’s why it gets a 6.2 from me.