A Hologram For The King

Director: Tom Tykwer (2016)

The desert sun shines a soft light on a middle age crisis in this culture clash comedy drama.

Handsome, sentimental and undemanding, it relies heavily on the charm of a hangdog Tom Hanks to hold our attention.

He plays a salesman in a slump called Alan Clay, who jets off to Saudi Arabia to sell an innovative holographic conference call system to the King.

But he finds himself trapped in a Kafka-esque routine of cancelled appointments, stone-walling receptionists and elusive contacts.

This multiplies Alan’s many anxieties which manifest themselves as a cyst on his back and panic attacks.

Seeking treatment he’s befriended by glamorous doctor Zahra and his wild haired driver Yousef.

They’re played with graceful intelligence by Sarita Choudhury and a deceptive deapan delivery by Alexander Black. Ben Whishaw and Tom Skerritt appear briefly.

Hologram opens with an agitated Clay singing Talking Heads 1980’s ode to existential angst Once In A Lifetime.

This fabulous if too short sequence is the only time the film offers any daring. After which it settles into a comfortable rhythm, rolling along as gently as the desert dunes which stretch interminably along Clay’s horizon.

There’s a running joke involving Clay falling off his chair and watching Hanks tapping out flirtatious emails at his computer has echoes of Nora Ephron’s comedy You’ve Got Mail (1998).

Adapted from Dave Eggers novel of the same name, the script leaves politics and religion in the shade and offers a sunny outlook on the possibilities which exist in even the most unpromising terrain.