A Hologram for the King movie poster
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A Hologram for the King
A Hologram for the King movie poster

A Hologram for the King Movie Review

Now available on Blu-ray and DVD (Buy on Amazon)

If a Tom Hanks movie is released to theaters and no one sees it, does it even exist? A Hologram for the King is an odd-duck of a film, one that stars one of the most recognized and respected actors in the world and yet has a story, the quality, distribution company and marketing of a movie that otherwise would have gone straight to home video.

A Hologram for the King is not a bad movie per se. It’s just a movie that exists, a footnote that a few years from now people will look at and say, “What the hell is this movie? Tom Hanks was in it?” And it’s a paradox, in that it’s a movie where Tom Hanks’ presence sets unrealistic expectations for quality and entertainment value, and yet it is most certainly elevated by—and probably would not exist otherwise without—the actor’s involvement.

Hanks stars as a man who has traveled to Saudi Arabia to propose a business deal to the king, but finds himself stranded in a strange environment with no end in sight. The film, written and directed by Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run, Cloud Atlas), basically involves Hanks encountering a series of unique situations and having anxiety attacks.

A Hologram for the King moves along at a brisk enough pace, though no scene ever amounts to a whole lot of anything. You’re never really bored, but even when the film tries to be funny it really isn’t (a shtick where Hanks’ chairs repeatedly break under his weight falls flat). It’s mildly entertaining at best, hardly a waste of time but certainly not a good use of it, either.

Hanks is solid enough, though even he can do so much with the B-grade material. There just isn’t a lot for his character to do. His supporting cast, or at least the supporting characters, are a bit odd. Alexander Black is decent as Hanks’ dutiful and funny sidekick Yousef, though given all the criticisms of white washing these days, it’s very strange to see an American actor trying, and failing, to look and act like a Saudi Arabian.

Love interest Zahra is an interesting character. She defies all stereotype, almost to the point where her character has lost all sense of cultural upbringing—it feels like Tykwer took an American character, put her in a hijab, and dropped her into the movie, losing all of the interesting nuance we could have experienced had she not been so extremely non-traditional. Sarita Choudhury is fine choice to play her, but her character and her relationship with Hanks’ isn’t developed enough to really care about them.

A Hologram for the King has its moments and overall is a harmless piece of filmmaking, but it’s such a forgettable nothing of a film it’s extremely challenging to recommend it.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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