A Hologram for the King

If not for Tom Hanks, I would not have sat through the whole movie. As it was, I dozed off for more than a couple of minutes during this 2016 movie!

Alan Clay (Tom Hanks) is a salesman from the Reyland Group in Boston sent to Saudi Arabia to pitch a new IT system and close the deal with the King. There, he meets a ‘funny’ Yousef (Alexander Black), a driver, guide and hero, but not chauffeur, who had studied in Alabama.

In a matter of days, he learns a fair bit about the local customs and way of life. Along the way, he also gets acquainted with different genres of music – about two dozen pieces, from Chicago (‘You’re The Inspiration’) to Electric Light Orchestra (‘Turn To Stone’) to Rashed Al-Majed ( ‘Al Qalk LK’ and ‘Yaza Al Shabubi’) to Elvis Presley, reggae and classical music (Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons : Spring and Winter).

As Alan is going through a divorce and facing the prospect of having to sell his house to pay for his only daughter’s college education, he’s feeling rather depressed, clumsy, slow, lacking energy, losing direction, strength and certain abilities and he blames it for causing the little hump on his back. He goes to the hospital and meets Dr Zahra Hakem (Sarita Choudhury) who diagnoses it as a lipomo, like a cyst, that is benign. But to assure him, further tests are done. It is found to be pre cancerous and Alan is advised to have it removed.

It comes as no surprise that Alan and Zahra would fall for each other and Alan would delay returning home to stay for an extended period with Zahra, getting a new job in Saudi Arabia as he has lost his job with Reyland because a developer from China undercut them by 50% on the price.

The many flashbacks to when Alan was a young man (played by Stefan Langel, who I thought didn’t look one bit like Tom Hanks ) and as a child (Lewis Rainer) do not add anything to the story. But the photography unit and visual effects department did a good job. Between Morocco, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Boston, there are some beautiful sights to be seen.

One surprise was finding the name of Tom Hank’s stunt double (who performed spectacularly in an underwater scene) together with the list of actors in the cast. It is the first time I hear of Stefan Langel.

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