A Hologram For The King Review – Finding An Oasis in the Desert of Life

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A Hologram for the King, from Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions, presents a new take on the proverbial fish out of water scenario, as ageing salesman Tom Hanks attempts to navigate the changing world of IT, break cultural barriers and maintain life.

.Written and directed by Tom Tykwer, A Hologram For The King stars Tom Hanks, Sarita Choudhury, and Alexander Black and also stars, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Tracey Fairaway, Jane Perry, David Menkin, Christy Meyer, Megan Maczko, Ben Whishaw and Tom Skerritt.

A Hologram for the King, begins as metaphorically Alan Clay, played by Tom Hanks, is going through a midlife, mental crisis as his marriage is over, and his former wife is demanding he sell the house to send his only child, Kit, played by name the name, to college.

Alan Clay, made a strategic and critical decision during his days on the board at the quintessential American company, Schwinn Bicycles and sent the manufacturing to china putting many out of work. Protecting the bottom line and protecting people are not, for any business, the same.

He has suffered both personally and professionally after this decision. He lost respect in the eyes of his family, his dad has never forgiven him, and it seems as if the gods of the right thing are repaying him, for what he felt was a right decision. To sum it up: Karma has shown up and she’s not happy.  

So as Alan Clay is sent off to Saudi Arabia to secure a make or break IT deal from the King of Saudi Arabia. He is experiencing continued panic over the possibilities of failure. A place he is has become accustomed.

Of course, the first of what seems like daily missteps begin to play out: jet lag causes him to miss the team shuttle to island in the desert sun, a construction site that will eventually become a shimmering city, a jewel in the King's’ crown, representing the global dominance of the Saudi Kingdom.

The vision it takes to see this is somewhat beyond what our team Brad, played by David Menkin, Cayley played by Christy Meyer and Rachel played by Megan Maczko can see as they are sequestered to a black tent with no air conditioning, in the sweltering heat, with no Wi-Fi signal, and no food or water. The simple provisions that make for a solid well working and winning team.

After several days of enduring hellish heat that is wringing the life out of our champions, (rah-rah) Clay decides to tackle the issue himself. Sneaking past the receptionist he lands on the nirvana to air conditioning, Wi-Fi water and friendly fresh faces.

This is where we meet Hanne, played by Sidse Babett Knudsen, a Danish payroll assistant who helps him out, showing him the ropes and interpretation the time explanations. Soon, in Saudi time, means sometime, which means soon, which means possibly three to six months.

Sending him off with a welcome gift bag that contained the clearly and strictly forbidden alcohol beverage that cannot even be served in the hotel to American guests. Clay becomes drunk and decides to investigate the abnormal growth on his back.

For some time, a lump has been growing under the skin’s surface and of course, while in the states, for the sake of not knowing the answer he put it off and waited until he was millions of miles from a U.S. doctor, his home and family to investigate the growth.

With the skill of a surgeon he presses the knife to the flesh. His efforts land him at the Emergency Room, which is where we meet Zahra, played by Homeland’s Sarita Choudhury. Of course, a beautiful, talented, skilled, respectful and observant Saudi physician is exactly the challenge he needs right now as he barely is able to navigate the cultural barriers.

Throughout this time Clay, who also forgot to secure an International Driver’s license, is left to the services of a slightly bizarre, funny, driver Yousef, played by Alexander Black.

Yousef, a lover of dated American music, becomes a guide of sorts helping navigate the treacherous cultural barriers that can end business relationships over the slightest infraction.

I enjoyed A Hologram For The King.

Interestingly enough the Danish expat community is portrayed like one would expect, possibly to an extreme, inasmuch as the Saudi culture of strictness in business and economic necessity mandates, the Danish live liberally, sexual freedom and alcohol flow freely punctuating the point that life behind closed doors in very much alive. Protocol, be damned.

The cinematography was good, introducing areas of the world never experienced with authenticity even as production was filmed in Morocco.

When I screened A Hologram For The King I left feeling uneasy about the subservient roles the majority of women in the society are forced into. The arranged marriages and violations of human rights, even spoke of in the film, when Hanks asks about the crowds and he is told the beheadings were held, only joking.

The technology presentation is state of the art and cutting edge. It is the wave of the future and very well presented.

Hanks is as solid as ever, this film brings a messy life, which is unusual and opposite of type, to the screen as he tackles the top ten list of stress producers all rolled into one.

He captures both of his strongest elements: the funny man opposite Yousef and unsure romantic lead with Chaudhary. Adding the strict adherence to culture and religions these scenes are the excitement that comes from getting away with the forbidden.

Tom Hanks and Sarita Choudhury find an unlikely oasis in the midst of both their midlife storms and they handle it well.

A Hologram For The King opens in select cities April 22, 2016. Check local listings.

Image courtesy of Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions and used with permission

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