There is only one word that I could use to successfully describe Tom Tykwer’s, A Hologram for the King, it’s ‘average’. Undeniably, horribly, eye-clawingly; average. The whole film felt token and disjointed, with no real purpose.
A Hologram for the King is a fictional story about a previously unsuccessful American sales representative (played by Tom Hanks) on a quest to sell a holographic conference calling system to a Saudi Arabian king. Once in Saudi Arabia, Hanks’ character, Alan Clay, begins to evolve over time as he becomes more acclimatised to the harsh landscape and culture.
I found this film odd; it often seemed to set up narratives that were never genuinely expanded on or resolved. An example of this failing revolves around Alan’s relationship with his daughter and ex-wife. His family situation and connection with these two are consistently referenced but after the credits rolled I was left thinking “well… what happened to them?” This seemed to be a recurring theme throughout, a frustrating element, which left me feeling dissatisfied as I left the theatre.
Visually, A Hologram For The King performed well. The colourful deep blue skies and vast yellow deserts, often juxtaposed against seemingly out of place cityscapes, made for a piquant feast for the eyes.
The humour, although charming in certain points of the movie, again missed its mark. Apart from the almost hysterical middle aged man who sat next to me in the theatre, most of the comical scenes only managed to rouse a ‘heh’ in the audience, with the attempts at laughs feeling like unwanted and out of place additions to a half serious drama.
In addition to this, Tom Hanks’ performance seemed to be lacking an indefinable ‘something’. It often felt forced and dry, similar to that of the Arabian background to which the film is set.
Overall I found this film incredibly bland and uninspiring, and I would only suggest going to it if you are a Tom Hanks fan, although I warn you that you may be disappointed.
By David van Veldhuisen
This review is a part of SWINE Magazine’s Melbourne International Film Festival coverage.