Review: Hanks rescues all-over-the-place ‘Hologram’

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

In lesser hands, “A Hologram for the King” could easily fall apart. But the film rests firmly in the capable grasp of Tom Hanks, and Hanks keeps this fish-out-of-water story together.

Hanks stars as Alan Clay, a washed-up salesman sent to Saudi Arabia to pitch a new business plan to the Saudi king. Clay has a failed marriage and a daughter whose college he can’t pay for, and he now finds himself halfway around the world preparing a proposal on hologram technology for a leader who keeps pushing off their meeting.

There’s a “Groundhog Day” element to the way the film unfolds, as Clay finds himself perpetually navigating the same routine. The stress from his situation causes a growth on his back, which brings him into the care of a doctor (Sarita Choudhury), and they form a connection that transcends their cultural differences.

Writer-director Tom Tykwer (“Cloud Atlas”) adapts Dave Eggers’ 2012 novel and is all-over-the-place in terms of style; he opens with a bang with Hanks in a fantasy sequence performing Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime,” and then veers wildly from situational comedy (mostly involving an annoying driver, played by Alexander Black) to slapstick (Hanks keeps breaking chairs when he sits) to drama to romance. The film’s tone shifts as if it’s as unsure where it’s headed as Clay’s character is about his future.

But you go with it, because it’s Hanks. He makes Clay come alive, making him upbeat on the surface, but racked with fear deep down about his place in life and the choices he’s made. You trust him, just as you always trust Hanks, and he makes this “Hologram” feel real.

(313) 222-2284

‘A Hologram for the King’


Rated R for some sexuality/nudity, language and brief drug use

Running time: 97 minutes