A Hologram for the King – Film Review by S. Guttman

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A Hologram for the King. If you’re a fan of Tom Hanks this is a must see movie. Hanks’ skills translate a quirky storyline into a delightful 97-minute film. It is 2010 and Alan Clay (Hanks) is traveling to Saudi Arabia in hopes of selling a holographic teleconferencing system to the Saudi government. We learn that Clay was once a high level executive for Schwinn Bicycles, instrumental in closing Schwinn’s American plants, and moving the jobs to China. Clay is newly divorced, struggling to afford sending his daughter to college.

The company Clay works for is one of many Western businesses vying to sell products to the Saudis. Clay’s boss treats him like a has-been salesman and the only reason Clay scores the Saudi opportunity is his friendship with someone in the Saudi royal family. The Saudi government plans to build a master city outside of Jeddah but development is moving at the pace of pre-global warming glaciers. At night, Clay stays in a modern hotel and each morning he oversleeps, which results in our meeting Yousef (Alexander Black), Clay’s taxi driver. Yousef spent a year in Alabama and loves rock music. He also believes that one day soon, his taxi will be rigged to a bomb because of his affair with a married woman. The interplay between Yosef and Clay is funny and complements the film’s humorous undertone. Clay becomes ill and is treated at a hospital by a female doctor (Sarita Choudhury). Yosef comments more than once that there are only a handful of female doctors in Saudi Arabia and even more unusual is the fact that Clay, a male, is being treated by a female doctor. The film is not kind to Saudi society. Tom Tykwer wrote the screenplay and directed the film, which is based on the novel by Dave Eggers. The story heads in different directions at various points, however, as things gradually unfold, you begin to see the end point. This is a story with a nice ending and part of its pleasure is the realization that you are being told a tale that is very different from what you anticipated. I enjoyed this movie.

Steven Guttman
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