A Hologram for the King | Film review - Tom Hanks charms in culture-clash comedy

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(Image credit: Siffedine Elamine)

Playing a frazzled American businessman on a make-or-break sales trip to Saudi Arabia, Tom Hanks’ copper-bottomed charisma adds buoyancy to this culture-clash comedy based on the best-selling novel by Dave Eggers.

Hanks’ divorced, debt-stricken Alan Clay is hoping to turn his life around by pitching a 3D holographic meeting system to the Saudi king, but as he contends with jet lag, opaque bureaucracy and a strange lump on his back, his venture doesn’t go to plan.

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(Image credit: FREDERIC BATIER)

A Hologram for the King touches on current anxieties about globalisation, including US fears of losing ground to China, but its humour is whimsical rather than acerbic, its dramatic focus on Clay’s personal malaise and redemption rather than the wider world.

Fortunately, few actors do everyman angst as well as Hanks and he keeps us genuinely engaged in Clay’s plight, even when the narrative pace sags. Alexander Black’s irrepressible local driver provides him with a comic sparring partner, but it is his unexpected, entirely delightful low-burn romance with Sarita Choudhury’s soulful Saudi doctor that supplies the movie’s heart.

Certificate 12A. Runtime 98 mins. Director Tom Tykwer


Jason Best

A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.