Saturday movie review: A Hologram for the King

Tom Hanks in a black comedy? Yes!

Tom Hanks playing a frustrated, sometimes bitter man who has lost his home, his wife and is pretty darn close to losing his job, too? Yes!

Tom Hanks portraying a middle-aged businessman trying to find himself... in Saudi Arabia? A man struggling to function in a foreign culture with foreign customs then falling for a woman borne into — and committed to — said culture and customs? Yes!

a hologram for the king movie

Hanks masterfully (could he do it any other way?) covers all of the above and more in the offbeat — and far from typical Hanks — A HOLOGRAM FOR THE KING, a dramedy based on Dave Eggers' 2012 novel of the same name.

A HOLOGRAM FOR THE KING surprised me, intrigued me, perplexed me, kept me watching despite being unsure exactly why. Except that I wanted to find out what happened to Hanks' befuddled businessman Alan and his lost-in-Saudi predicament. And what the heck was up with the massive growth on Alan's back. Plus, though not a laugh-out-loud sort of comedy, the comedic quips from Alan and his taxi driver Yousef (Alexander Black) — as well as the bizarre situations Alan continually muddled his way through — kept me chuckling. And wondering where in the world it all might lead.


A HOLOGRAM FOR THE KING is far from my favorite Tom Hanks film. I can't say I loved it. Yet I certainly didn't dislike it, either. And the fact I'm still trying to figure out my true feelings about the film days after having watched it must mean something, right? It's a film that sticks with ya.

Hanks' Alan is a character unlike any I've seen Hanks play. Which was interesting to watch. Especially surprising was that Hanks has a love scene in the film, something I don't recall Hanks ever doing. Sure, he's played the nice-guy romantic time and again, but his intimate scene with the beautiful Sarita Choudhury as the Saudi Arabian doctor, Zahra, was unexpected. But fitting for the film. And made me root a bit for the two of them as they're older actors who seemed unruffled by their wrinkles and well-worn physiques.

Though Hanks and Choudhury had standout performances, my favorite fella in the film was Alexander Black, an American actor playing Saudi Arabian Yousef. His deadpan delivery of his lines and the accompanying facial expressions and body language proved perfectly silly and sweet — and scene-stealing. I look forward to catching up on his previous films as well as keeping an eye out for those to come. 

A HOLOGRAM FOR THE KING has one of the more unusual openings I've seen in a long time. Here, an extended version of the scene that grabbed me from the get-go:

A HOLOGRAM FOR THE KING (rated R for "sexuality/nudity, language and brief drug use") opened in theaters last spring and is now available via Netflix, streaming services, DVD and Bluray. Find out more on the film's official website.