A Hologram For A King (15.)
Directed by Tom Twyker.
Starring Tom Hanks, Alexander Black, Sarita Choudhury, Sidse Babett Knudsen and Tracey Fairaway. 98 mins
The thing about the On Screen Niceness of Tom Hanks, is that he really is phenomenally nice; and nice in a good way. He's so phenomenally nice he can, just about, keep this fleeting wisp of nothingness going just with that niceness alone.
Increasingly he is applying his niceness to screen adaptations of vaguely experimental modern novels. After starring in adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, here he teams up again with the co-director of Cloud Atlas to have a bash at a Dave (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius) Eggers book.
This starts brilliantly with Hanks introducing his character, Alan Clay, and his predicament in a version of the Talking Heads song Once In A Lifetime, which succinctly informs us that he has been badly credit crunched. It's a bravura opening but after that the film is relatively restrained for the director of Run, Lola, Run and Perfume.
After that Clay has to go to Saudi Arabia to try and sell the King a new system for holographic virtual conferencing. The screen Hologram flits around eying up the temptations of various genres: fish out of water; romcom, (tempted by a Saudi lady doctor); mid life crisis drama and big political statement on the effects of globalisation and how corporate America has sold out its own country's future in the search for lower manufacturing costs. But like a wary shopper at the green grocer’s it prods and pokes the merchandise without buying anything.
I ran across some quotes on line from he director about how the film was about how, “no matter how much the political and religious systems try to separate us, we are actually pretty connected.” Hmm, but everyone Hanks connects to in the film, he does so because they have western values. (And they are also played by western actors.) Saudi authorities will surely be furious with its portrayal of their country as inefficient and riddled with hypocrisy.
For western audiences Hologram offers a cutting edge vision of hyper-mundanity: it doesn't do much to excite or provoke you, but it passes by quickly and pleasantly and does nothing to provoke any animosity.