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A Hologram for the King, review: ‘More on-screen niceness from Tom Hanks’

PUBLISHED: 12:00 13 May 2016 | UPDATED: 12:30 13 May 2016

Tom Hanks stars in A Hologram for The King. Picture: Frederic Batier

Tom Hanks stars in A Hologram for The King. Picture: Frederic Batier


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 that he can, just about, keep this fleeting wisp of nothingness going with just that niceness alone.

Increasingly, he is applying his niceness to screen adaptations of vaguely experimental modern novels.

After starring in an adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, here he again teams up with the co-director of Cloud Atlas to have a bash at a Dave Eggers book (author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius).

This starts brilliantly with Hanks introducing his character, Alan Clay, and his predicament – 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.

This 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 greengrocers, it prods and pokes the merchandise without buying anything.

I ran across some quotes online from the 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 Hanks connects to every character in the film because they have western values (who 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.

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