Award-winning actor and filmmaker Tom Hanks stars in A Hologram for the King set in recession-ravaged 2010 as an American businessman named Alan Clay adapted from the book of the same title by acclaimed author Dave Eggers.
Hanks’ role in the movie is a broke, depressed and freshly divorced man who arrives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to close what he hopes will be the deal of a lifetime. His mission: sell a state-of-the-art holographic teleconferencing system to the Saudi government. Adrift and alone in an unfamiliar land, Alan befriends taxi driver Yousef (Alexander Black), who chauffeurs him through the desert to the “King’s Metropolis of Economy and Trade,” a surreal ghost town of vacant skyscrapers and half-completed construction projects.
Baffled by the bureaucratic reception he gets at the so-called “Welcome Center,” Alan struggles to figure out why his small IT support team is being forced to spend its days in a sweltering tent as it preps for the big presentation. Worse, because of the Saudi way of doing business, he’s unclear if the king will ever show up for the long-scheduled meeting.
Clay arrives in Saudi Arabia without any prior knowledge of the place, other than his own cartoonish, stereotypical concept, according to Hanks. “Though he’s not a happy guy, when Alan tries to sell the upbeat nature of the 3-D hologram and rally his team, he becomes this other guy, the former Alan Clay, a man with energy and vibrancy. That’s where the comedy comes from.”
In Hollywood’s finest black-comedy tradition, A Hologram for the King delivers laughs spiked with bittersweet undertones. “We’ve made a crisis comedy that points the finger at the fact that our economic structure is falling apart and the apocalypse seems to be looming just around the corner,” director Tom Tykwer says. “We use comedy as a tool to embrace tragedy like a balloon you stick with a needle so it explodes and the energy that comes out is cheerful. Despite all of Alan’s problems, I hope this movie cheers people up.”
A Hologram for the King opened June 1 in cinemas from OctoArts Films International.