REVIEW: A Hologram for the King

‘What would our kids think of this?’
‘What, of us together, of this clash of cultures?’
‘Yeah.’
‘We are not so different, we are separated by the most superficial of things.’
‘That’s how I see it too.’
‘That’s how it is.’

Based on the book of the same name by Dave Eggers, A Hologram for the King is an outstanding movie, starring Tom Hanks as Alan Clay, Sharita Choudhury as Dr. Zahra Hiquam, and Alexander Black as Yousef. Directed by Tom Tykwer (Cloud Atlas), the film revolves around Alan’s attempts to revive his struggling career mid-recession, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, by presenting his company’s new technology, a hologram communication interface, to the King; thus the name of the film. However, the deeper undercurrent of the movie focuses on how similar yet different the worlds are between the perceived ‘Western Culture’ and that of ‘Eastern Culture.’

There is a lot happening in this movie as Alan attempts to find success in Saudi Arabia. Along the way, he develops a deep, personal friendship with his driver Yusuf, and he also falls in love with the beautiful and independent Dr. Zahra Hiquam.

Within the film, there are a number of pivotal scenes that persuade the viewer to have a change of heart and mind. For me, this key moment is when Alan realises that some people in Saudi Arabia see him as much a threat to their culture, their way of life, their heritage, as perhaps some in the West perceive the influx of Muslims.

The characters were extremely interesting and not at all one dimensional. Alan is a man who loves his daughter more than anything, who has a professional past he regrets, who has issues with sex, and who overall is still trying to figure out his life; Yusuf is a great comedic relief, but he is also intelligent, genuinely caring, and desires to make his life and the lives of those he comes in contact with better; and Zahra is a powerful, independent character who knows the rules of her world and yet knows how to work within them in order to live how she wants. All of the characters aim at breaking stereotypes in their own ways.

The overall tone of the movie is encouraging, of overcoming negative preconceptions of ‘the other’, of the beauty of the world and its inhabitants, of class, race, gender, politics, and sexuality.

Admittedly, some of the positive messages of race representation are lost when one realises that neither of the Saudi Arabian characters are played by Saudi actresses/actors. Nevertheless, the overall aim of the movie, of promoting peace, tolerance, and understanding, as well as the view that success is a mere perspective and happiness is achievable anywhere, is still poignant and is pulled off rather successfully.

Overall, A Hologram for the King is a worthwhile film that has some great moments, well-rounded and relatable characters, and outstanding videography.

3.5/5 stars.

Reviewed by Brenton Griffin.

A Hologram for The King is a Palace Nova Cinemas exclusive film in Adelaide.