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A Hologram For The King Review

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Washed-up salesman Alan Clay (Hanks) is sent to Saudi Arabia to present his company’s new software to the king. It does not go well.

★★★★★

Salesman Alan Clay (Tom Hanks) is in rut – divorced, with a failing career and unable to pay for his daughter’s college tuition. He also has an egg-sized lump growing on his back. He does, however, find a chance for redemption when his company sends him to Saudi Arabia to sell a holographic conferencing system to the king. His boss doesn’t want to, but he once met the king’s nephew so he has an in, however shaky.

It’s tough not to notice that it plays out like a relocated Lost In Translation.

It’s an opportunity he seems determined to cock up — from waking late and missing his transport to the venue on his first morning (a trick he somehow repeats over multiple days), to singularly failing to get his team the Wi-Fi connection they need to set up their presentation. He even tries to cut his own back-lump off.

But it’s these blunders that, inadvertently, could be his salvation thanks to the relationships he begins to form, first with his driver Yousef (Alexander Black), then with the doctor, Zahra (Sarita Choudhury), who starts treating him.

Hanks is as watchable as ever, but miscast — never really selling the darker, self-destructive side of the character, too often coming off as implausibly bumbling. It’s a charming performance, and you root for Clay, basically a decent man (of course, it’s Hanks), but it makes certain plot points less believable.

And it’s tough not to notice it plays out like a relocated Lost In Translation. Both films centre on a main character whose personal life is falling apart, who find it tricky to adjust to the foreign cultures they find themselves in (at one point Clay jokes he’s in the CIA, only to find he’s taken very seriously by the locals), but sense a chance to revitalise themselves. And in a head-to-head, Hologram comes off second best.

But while it doesn’t reach the heights of the Bill Murray film, it has plenty to recommend it, especially as Clay begins to try to take back control of his life. Although not always successfully. An amiable and gently enjoyable diversion.

An adaptation of the Dave Eggers novel that struggles to make itself stand out, content instead to coast by on gentle comedy and Hanks’ charm. Pleasant but ultimately forgettable.