Directed by Tom Tykwer
Written by Tom Tykwer
Starring: Tom Hanks, Alexander Black, Sarita Choudhury, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Ben Whishaw, and Tom Skerritt
At the end of “A Hologram for the King” I had this unshakeable sensation that the film was not entirely realized. I felt the movie was missing something like the film had fallen short of what it had wanted to do with its story. “A Hologram for the King” is the story of Alan Clay’s exploration of himself. Why Clay is on this journey and the weight of this journey on him is left vague by the film. While there is certainly room in the film for things that are vague – usually an ending or a symbol – when it is part of the story or part of what the story wants to accomplish, then transparency is preferable to ambiguity.
The simple answer for what was missing from “A Hologram for the King” is depth. The narrative in this movie was hollow because there were several aspects of the story that were underdeveloped. Alan Clay, played by Tom Hanks, clearly has some substantial issues going on in his life between his divorce, whatever is going on with his daughter, and the various other things that occur during brief flashbacks. These things are explained regarding what they mean on the surface but never explored to the depth that they should have been regarding their meaning to Clay. These events would have given the resolution of Clay’s story more Weight and would have given the movie more depth. Without the deeper significance given to the events that led Clay to the Middle East, the movie feels dull and uninspired.
“A Hologram for the King” also suffers from a bit of an identity crisis. While the movie is about Clay’s personal journey, about half of the movie is spent trying to develop this idea of culture clash and this idea of learning a new culture. This part of the movie is also underdeveloped. It appears as if the Saudis are using some underhanded tactics on the American contractors who are there with Clay to deliver the IT presentation to the Saudi king. It is never explained if they were using such tactics, or even why they would want to use such tactics. Then the movie takes a detour to this brief scene in Mecca and the desert, and this whole scene is out of place in the film, and as I said previously, is a detour from it.
What makes “A Hologram for the King” a watchable is the performance of Tom Hanks, as is the norm for any less than stellar movie starring Hanks. Hanks makes you feel for Clay given the limited character information you have about him. But, like the rest of the movie Hanks’ performance is just shy of the greatness it could have been.
“A Hologram for the King” is not a bad movie, but it is not a great movie either. It is merely a good movie that is underserved by the fact that it fails to live up what it wanted to be.