Jonathan A., here…
Director Tom Tykwer’s adaptation of writer Dave Eggers’ novel “A Hologram For The King” is an interesting and at times, frustrating film.
Tom Hanks stars as a melancholic, washed-up businessman who has travelled to Saudi Arabia to swing for the fences and pitch his company’s hot new technology to the king of Saudi Arabia. Along the way, our protagonist meets colorful and interesting characters that are teeming with life and individuality.
Within this film, we are treated to some truly magnificent locations, as well as awe-inspiring cinematography, that did it all justice. It is apparent that director Tom Tykwer genuinely appreciated the grand desolation of the deserts he was filming in and that passion shows in stunning way he captured it on film. You cannot help but be awestruck by the vast desolation and beauty of the scenery.
Although Tom Hanks shines in his role and delivers a grounded, meaningful performance, the film fails at its attempt to be both a comedy and a drama. Every supposedly funny scene in this movie elicited a “hmph” and a slight shrug from me, rather than laughter or a smile. That was so disappointing to me, since Tom Hanks can be such a brilliant comedic actor, when given the right material. As far as the dramatic side is concerned, that is where this film does redeem itself. Although the drama is mellow and understated, it feels sincere and you can’t help but relate to the struggles each character is faced with.
Unfortunately, the film just never finds its footing. Though there are bright spots within the movie and scenes that are both poignant and thoughtful, for the most part, it’s a better-looking, meandering and forgettable, version of “Lost In Translation.”
Wow, this movie looks GORGEOUS! Presented in 1080p High def, the film looks resplendent in every scene, from hotel rooms to sprawling sand dunes. I can’t stress enough just how magnificent the desert shots in this movie are. Seriously… It is easily the best part of this film. Crisp, clean and vibrant, the colors all pop onscreen and whether you’re looking at the flashing, Technicolor lights of a party in the Danish embassy or the shining, golden sand dunes, as they crash into the deep blue sea, it all feels like eye-candy.
The audio on the other hand, though appropriate for the film, was nothing remarkable. Although it is presented in 5.1 surround, there are really no moments that will stand out to remind you that you’re hearing it in surround sound. The dialogue is all clear, present and easily distinguished. No trouble there. My only complaint in the audio department is that there are a few songs used in the film that sound somewhat small and muddy. I wish there had been better separation within the speakers for these songs, as it would have had a greater emotional impact on the viewer.
The Making of A Hologram For The King – This was a very solid “making of” featurette. Consisting of interviews with many of the cast and crew, the viewer is given some effective insight into the creative decisions and processes behind this movie.
From Novel To Screen: The Adaption of A Hologram For The King – Largely an interview between writer David Eggers and director Tom Tykwer, this featurette is fun to watch, since it illuminates some of the struggles of translating a novel into an effective film.
Perfecting The Culture – An interesting featurette that focuses on the challenges faced by the crew and the cultural/dialect advisor for the film, in regards to making details both large and small fit into a realistic portrayal of the people and culture of Saudi Arabia.
The Ultimate Word
“A Hologram For The King” is a film with soaring and emotional high points, but mostly, it falls flat of being a memorable movie. It’s worth a watch for the excellent scenery, cinematography and Tom Hanks’ always enjoyable acting, but not one that I’d see myself wanting to watch multiple times. Not one I’d suggest purchasing, but rent it on Blu-ray and you’ll be entertained.
WORTH ONE LOOK!