Tom Hanks rarely makes indies. Instead, he usually headlines compelling biopics, gripping action/adventures and animated blockbusters. So the low-budget, German-produced drama “A Hologram for the King”, based on a 2012 novel by Dave Eggers, is definitely a change of pace for one of the biggest movie stars on the planet. But even THE Tom Hanks can’t save this unfocused and largely unimaginative adaptation.
Hanks plays businessman Alan Clay, who is sent to Saudi Arabia to represent his Boston-based technology company in presenting the King with a revolutionary hologram communication system for a soon-to-be constructed new kingdom. When Clay arrives – the atmosphere isn’t anything like expected – and yet his story plays out exactly like I expected.
There’s the obligatory goofy driver, a love interest (who’s also his doctor) and conflicts involving the weather, culture clashes, and Clay’s mysterious illness. Writer/director Tom Tykwer (who re-teams with Hanks following 2012’s “Cloud Atlas”) crafts a scattered screenplay. Situations occur simply based on chance and coincidence in order to quickly get us from Point A to Point B. Some of the subplots are left oddly open-ended, and several of the supporting characters have the ability to manipulatively get some of Clay’s history out of him. Tykwer’s occasional quirky visuals and brief flashbacks involving Clay’s difficult marriage, challenges with his daughter and father (Tom Skeritt in a shockingly brief supporting role) and difficult career decisions from his past are the minor elements that do stand-out.
Hanks doesn’t give my favorite Hanks performance ever, but without him at the helm of “A Hologram for the King” the movie would’ve completely fallen flat. This film feels old-fashioned – and a little too so – especially since the story is contemporary, about a breakthrough tech innovation. “A Hologram for the King” isn’t awful and far from intolerable, but it desperately needed something NEW to say about the world of international business, foreign relations, human relations, personal struggles or, frankly, anything.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “A Hologram for the King” gets a C.
Running Time: 98 min.