Movie: A Hologram For The King
Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)
Review: Middle age can be a very tough time in life; just ask Alan Clay (Tom Hanks). He used to be the bright young man on his way to the top in the business world, had a beautiful wife, had a wonderful daughter named Kit (Tracey Fairaway), the huge house in the suburbs – it was the American Dream come to fruition. Until it all started to turn to crap. The economy took a down turn, the marriage fell apart, and even after being forced to sell the house in the divorce, Alan can’t even afford to send his daughter to college. Clay’s boss bluntly lays it on the line to him, as Alan prepares to go to Saudi Arabia to make an important sales pitch for the company. “The only reason we are sending you, Alan Clay, is your connection to a nephew to the King of Saudi Arabia.” It is pretty much understood that either Alan makes the sale, or doesn’t bother to come back.
Soon Alan is in Saudi Arabia, a country totally foreign to him in every way. He discovers his careful plans and agenda have gone to hell in a hand basket. His small team of three young Information Technology (IT) experts are stuck in a tent in the desert with no Wi Fi connection, or even air conditioning. Saudi officials are never around when they are supposed to be. It seems problematic as to whether Alan Clay will even get a chance to pitch his company’s cutting edge holographic IT system, to the king or anyone else. Alan seems destined to travel forever from his luxury hotel to the desert site with his loyal driver Yousef (Alexander Black), because Alan can’t seem to wake up in the mornings to catch the shuttle. To make matters worse, Alan has medical issues, and finds himself relying on the care of Zahra (Sarita Choudhury), one of the very few women physicians allowed to practice medicine in the country.
This is a very good film for a number of reasons. Tom Hanks is superb in the role of a middle aged man who feels his life has peaked, and he is desperately trying to hold it together to make one last sales pitch to save his career and maybe his self esteem as well. Sarita Choudhury is a marvelous actress, portraying a dignified and talented professional woman in a society that frankly discourages those traits. The movie also gives a few glimpses into what a totally different world Saudi Arabia is. To the American eye, things move very slowly there, if at all. Their culture has subtle currents that we just cannot understand. The movie plot develops slowly, but that is intentional. This is not an action movie, this is a tour de force for Tom Hanks. Go see it to savor a great actor in his prime.
Dialogue Nuggets: Alan to Young Woman – “They can only kill me with a golden bullet. Get it? Lawrence of Arabia.” Young Woman – “Who?”
Alan to Yousef – “You were in the lobby for five minutes. What kind of bomb could anyone install in five minutes!”
Alan – “There was a lot going on over there yesterday.” Yousef – “Yeah, that’s where they hold the executions.”
Hanne – “The king hasn’t been here for a while.” Alan – “How long is a while?” Hanne – “I’ve been here for 18 months, and he hasn’t been here yet.”
Yousef – “He’s a swinger. He goes to Europe to have sex with boys.” Alan – “So he’s gay?” Yousef – “Gay? No. You think that means he’s gay?”
Zahra – “Divorce is pretty complicated in this country.” Alan – “Divorce is pretty complicated in any country.”