Film Review: A Hologram for the King

A Hologram for the King

Tom Tyker’s A Hologram for the King is amiable thanks to the central performance. The film is ambles along, focusing on the journey rather than the destination.

After failing in his role as an executive, Alan travels from America to Saudi Arabia with the aim of selling a video conferencing system to the king. Waiting for the king to arrive, Alan has time to reflect…

A Hologram for the King is based on Dave Eggers novel of the same name. The film focuses on protagonist Alan and the pressure for him to make the sale. As the film progresses, the narrative concerns Alan’s state of mind; flashbacks reveal what is plaguing him whilst his health worries bring things into focus. A Hologram for the King is a journey to realisation, rather than a neat conclusion.

The underlying theme of writer-director Tom Twyker’s film is the decline of America. This is played out in a more prominent way further into the film, with Alan’s dreams providing an everyman example of recession. Meanwhile, Alan himself becomes the personification of the decline; transforming an industry that creates to one that sells. Some of this preoccupation is heavy-handed, but overall the film gets its point across.

The film mixes comedy with drama. Some sequences work better than others, with the film moving glacially towards its conclusion. The film is really a one-man show; the supporting characters are functional but not really fleshed out. Tom Hanks offers as likeable performance as ever. Hanks seems effortlessly comfortable in the role, and brings his trademark charm. The opening sequence sets the tone for the film. As strange as it is, the film works more often than not.

Owing to the ponderous nature of the narrative, A Hologram for the King is not the most memorable film. Nevertheless, it is perfectly watchable movie that should entertain a wider audience beyond Tom Hanks fans.

Film Review: Cloud Atlas

Cloud AtlasCloud Atlas is an ambitious if not wholly successful project. Some of the film’s strands are definitely stronger than others.

A voyage across the Pacific in 1849, a young English musician trying to compose music in 1936, a journalistic investigation in San Francisco 1976, a book publisher in 2012, a cloned waitress in Korea 2144, and post-apocalyptic Hawaii. All these people and events are connected…

Directed by Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski, Cloud Atlas is an ambitious amalgamation of six different stories set at different times and in different locations, with the same actors playing multiple parts. The film has a strong start, but some stories wane as others become more interesting. It is the contemporary-set strand which is most entertaining, given its humour.

With its interwoven stories, it is unclear how the film will map out. Some of the strands are engaging whilst the post-apocalyptic strand in particular fails to capture the imagination. Cutting frequently from story to story, it is difficult to gauge how far along in the narrative the film is at any particular time. As a result, the film feels like it is heading to its conclusion a lot sooner than it actually does. The second half of Cloud Atlas seems sluggish in comparison with the first half. With a running time of just under three hours, viewers will be forgiven for getting restless.

The different eras are given very distinctive looks. Parts of the future-set sequences are highly reminiscent of other films. There is also a part of the narrative that resembles another film, although an overt reference is made to this earlier in proceedings. The score is great, but some of the prosthetics are very noticeable. The changing of races and genders is odd, but adds to the overall theme of the film.

Performances in Cloud Atlas are great for the most part, with a number of the actors taking several different roles. Ben Whishaw stands out in the 1936 strand, while Hugo Weaving is strong in all his roles. Jim Broadbent also delivers strong performances, and Tom Hanks is as solid as ever.

If the cod philosophy is ignored, Cloud Atlas is entertaining enough. Ultimately it is the fact that the film is overlong which lets it down. An interesting concept which would have been wonderful if the directors could have fully pulled it off.