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.
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