HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: A Hologram for the King
HTS Overall Score:79
It seems more and more recently, that Tom Hanks is being much more careful and judicious in his roles, but still there is a distinct notion that the man has to be involved with something magical. Something mysterious and mystical, or stupendous and awe inspiring (like the new film “Sully” regarding the early 2000 era plane crash that happened). It’s very rare that Hanks allows himself to be relegated to playing someone more “human” or simple in nature. However, that is exactly what happens here as he envelopes himself into the role of Alan, a salesman for an IT firm looking to sell their holographic technology to the king of Saudi Arabia for his new city being built. What starts out as a simple sales pitch turns into something so much more, but so much less than we ever could have hoped.
As mentioned, Alan is the salesman assigned to the Saudi Arabia project by his bosses (not because he’s the best salesman, but because he had a sort of “relationship” with the crowned prince years ago). He’s there to sell holographic IT tech to the new city being built off of the coast, but upon arriving there he finds out it’s not exactly as easy as it is in America. His main contact avoids him for weeks, and his team is stuffed outside in a tent with no working air conditioning and no Wi-fi signal for their presentation. While the culture is certainly a shock, Alan has his own problems as well. He is coming from a lifetime that netted him absolutely nothing to this point, after losing out big time when Schwinn pretty much stepped outside of the bicycle world in the U.S. and became another cog in the Chinese sweatshop machinery world. He has an ex-wife who sees him as a failure, and a college age daughter whom he is failing to provide for. This sales pitch is his last ditch effort at redeeming himself before he and everyone around him sees Alan for the failure he thinks he is.
The pain is not all emotional. While he is suffering from self-doubt and stagnation, Alan also has a lump on the back of his spine that is terrifying him. After deciding to perform some impromptu surgery on himself with a steak knife (yeah, may not have been the smartest move) Alan is forced to go to a Saudi hospital, where meets one of the rarer sights in the nation. A female Dr. by the name of Zahra (Sarita Choudhury), a woman who is of immediate interest to the foreigner. To say that they instantly fall in love and spark some whirlwind romance throughout the story would be a lie, but instead director Tom Tykwer winds in a warm friendship that matures as Alan slowly finds himself in a land that is about as foreign to the aging salesman as anything he has ever encountered.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=76897[/img]“A Hologram for the King” reminds a very little bit of Paramount’s “Anomalisa”, which I reviewed a few months back. It chronicles the life of a man who seems to be slowly descending into madness. A madness born of a life that is choking the ACTUAL life out of him. Instead of delving into the insanity and finding some sort twisted meaning, Alan comes up to the brink of it and instead takes a new path. A new direction, so to speak, that pushes the man from ruin into opportunity. His sales pitch to the King may seem like the focus to the story, but in reality it is far from that. In fact it acts as an inciting incident, but then fades into the background as Alan muses over his life and what has led him to this point in time.
I won’t say that this is Hanks finest performance, or that this is a magnificent film. However it is one of the more grounded and unique stories that Hanks has done for quite some time. Stepping outside of the Oscar bait roles and into something a little more uncomfortable reminds me the actor’s earlier days with Spielberg and some of the more subtle characters like he was in “The Terminal”. His performance is one of several stand outs in the film, and it gives the movie a sort of low key energy that keeps the audience intrigued, despite the slow pacing of the film. The other standout performance comes in the guise of Alexander Black, who plays Yousef, his driver and guide to the new world. Their interactions throughout the story are simply marvelous, and while there is no life changing events that come from their interactions, the simplistic friendship and comradery that is born from two very different men helps revitalize the worn out and worried salesman.
Rated R for some sexuality/nudity, language and brief drug use
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=76905[/img]The 2.39:1 AVC encoded Blu-ray is a joy to behold, showing a crystal clear image that just pops with bright colors and vivid details. The Saudi environment is rich with golden overtones of the desert, contrasting with the highly technical and almost sterile look of the stone and metal hotel construction that Alan is staying in. Colors are bright and cheery, with strong primary representation all around and an image that gives more than enough fine detail to go around. Intimate and personal details, such as Alan’s bulging lump on the back of his spine, as well as intricate detailing on the clothing leaves the audience marveling at the clarity of the movie. Blacks are deep and inky, and although I saw a flicker of banding here and there, artifacts were almost non-existent.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=76913[/img]The audio is a bit more laid back, but still quite effective for the drama at hand. Dialog is the main component of the mix here, with a solid front heavy encode that keeps the vocals firmly in the center and the middling surround effects utilized enough to create a nice ambiance. The more prominent points of the track are when Alan crashes a party where you can hear electronic beats mixed with the mumbling of surrounding crowds of people all while trying to focus on the dialog between the two leads. LFE is reserved, but still comes out to play when asked of it, adding weight to the party scene as well as a few random effects (such as a rubber passport stamp coming down with the intense force). It’s a simple track, but very effective at what it sets out to do and with very few, if any, noticeable flaws.
• “The Making of A Hologram For The King” Featurette
• “From Novel to Screen: The Adaptation of A Hologram For The King” Featurette
• “Perfecting The Culture” Featurette
“A Hologram for the King” is one of those movies that completely slipped under my radar, and a movie that doesn’t seem to have been announced with much fanfare or pomp. Sliding through the theaters and onto home video I almost missed it until I saw the press release from Lionsgate, and I’m rather glad I requested to review it. The film is not as intense or wildly theatrical as many of Hanks movies are, but it is a thoughtful and artistic movie that shows what happens when someone allows themselves the opportunity to begin anew. Audio is great, but the video is easily the best part of the whole release, allowing me to give a solid thumbs up for a watch.
Starring: Tom Hanks, Alexander Black, Sarita Choudhury
Directed by: Tom Tykwer
Written by: Dave Eggers (Novel), Tom Tykwer (Screenplay)
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 98 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: August 9th 2016
Buy A Hologram for the King On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Recommended for a Watch
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