Movie Review: Hologram For The King

It’s relatively rare for a big star like Tom Hanks to star in a low-budget art house type of a movie but “Hologram For The King” is one of those kinds of movies. This film gives an insight into what is probably happening more and more in the Software Development/Information Technology field in the last few years, ie. more and more American’s traveling to Saudi Arabia and Dubai to sell state of the art technology to a massively expanding area of the world. It was interesting to see the hot flat desert life of so many people where despite the stifling heat, blinding sun and sand, the most construction in the world is going on. How can workers build so many huge buildings under such horrible conditions is a mystery, as well as what it must take to build the foundations of buildings in the sand to support so much massive weight. The part of Saudi Arabia where this movie was shot is in the early stages of new huge development probably which is being created because this location within Saudi Arabia wants to try and catch up with Dubai. Clearly they have a long way to go.

This movie starts in an extremely unusual way; opening with Hanks walking out of his house followed by blue puffs of smoke as his house, car and wife disappear while he walks forward narrating something about leaving things behind. This opening scene gives the viewer the impression that the rest of the movie might follow this unusual approach but it then immediately reverted back to a normal movie, which I thought ruined the strange opening of the film. Thereafter, we find Hanks traveling to Saudi Arabia where he is trying to sell Hologram software to a Saudi King who he never meets during weeks of trying to have meetings with important Saudi officials only to find out many times that these meetings were being delayed or canceled.

Hanks collaborates with 3 other members of this software company who are burdened by having to work in a tent which had no food, internet access or at a later time no air conditioning. Another unusual aspect of this movie is the sudden appearance of a huge cyst on Hank’s back which leads to a doctor’s appointment and later a love story with a Saudi doctor who like Hanks, is also getting divorced and has children. The cyst was found to be pre-cancerous and had to be surgically removed, and leads to a later scene that enhances the potential romance with the Saudi doctor.

This film has many flashbacks that include Hank’s previous employment as a Schwinn Bicycle company executive and the layoff of many employees, his divorce and various conversations with his teenage daughter who he can barely afford to send to college due to his divorce. I thought these flashbacks did fit well into the story mainly because they were short and to the point and did not affect the flow of the story other than to enhance it.

What was really not that believable was the developing love story between the Saudi doctor and Hanks which blossomed mostly at the end of the film. I thought the woman who played the doctor was really not attractive enough to have a romance with Tom Hanks and because of this I thought she was miscast in this role and the love story was not believable enough.

Due to the unusual nature of this film and the insight into some Saudi culture and the country, I do mildly recommend this movie.


IMDB – A Hologram For The King