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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Culture Shock

A Hologram for the King (2016) on IMDb

Plot Overview

The movie “A Hologram for the King” opens on a vivid dream of failed American businessman Alan Clay (Tom Hanks) crooning, “Once in a Life­time” by The Talking Heads: “You may find your­self with a beautiful house. You may find your­self with a beautiful wife.” In typical dream fashion the suburban house disappears, vanishes poof! Next goes the nagging wife, and Alan wakes up on an air­plane full of devout (chanting) Muslims on their way to The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He has recently been through a “complicated” divorce—aren't they all?—and now he's been reassigned to a foreign sales patch.

You've heard the saying, “There is no ‘i’ in ‘team’.” Women tend to have a broader social support system than do men, so the ladies handle divorce better. It's like taking that ‘i’ out of their ‘team’: he was never around for her to begin with, so she's got the same team she had in the first place. A man loses his wife, well, Alan's team was Schwinn; you take away the ‘i’, all you've got left is a string of consonants.

His ex scolds him, and his boss is on his case. His dad is angry with him, and we don't see his uncle around. Kit, his college-aged daughter (Tracey Fair­away), has left the nest. Periodic dreams of a roomful of grim men about to be told that Alan sent their jobs at Schwinn to China makes it clear he hasn't got any friends left there. Because of a fluke connection to the Saudi king's nephew, Alan gets an assignment to market a new holo­graphic tele­con­ference system to them. He's not flying with fellow Americans on the plane, and he arrives too early to schmooze with any other vendors for convivial competition. He is not feeling very chipper.

The company he represents is called the RELYAN GROUP. It's pronounced ‘Relean’. Sometimes a ‘y’ is used as a vowel. Sometimes professional contacts become social ones, and that's what develops in this movie.


The Talking Heads song asks, “How did I get here?” (with a beautiful house and a beautiful wife) presumably so that when one suffers a reversal, he can get there again. The answer the movie proposes seems to be a three step process: (Prov. 24:27) “Prepare thy work with­out, and make it fit for thyself in the field; and afterwards build thine house.” This scheme is hit on again and again. Alan must prepare his work with­out, i.e. out­side the home, by securing a.c., wi-fi, and food for the advance team. Making it fit for him­self in the field entails getting some wheels, in his case a car and a driver Yousef (Alexander Black). In olden days it might have been a camel, and we observe plenty of them lolly­gagging around. Building one's house comes at the end, and we see that in a flash­back where the boy Alan and his uncle on a camping trip as night falls hurriedly put together a hand­made structure from trees, brush and materials at hand.

Examples of work include: Kit on a break from college doing well waiting tables & making lots of tips, and suspected CIA moon­lighting (“Just a little free lance work, nothing full time.”)

Examples of making it fit for oneself in the field include: a possible nest of spiders where mama spider had to first find a suit­able host, and a hunt to take a wolf that's been worrying the sheep.

Of course, the beautiful house and the beautiful wife will appear at the end if the movie has the expected happy ending.

Production Values

This movie, “” (2016) was written and directed by Tom Tykwer. It was based on Dave Eggers's 2012 novel A Holo­gram for the King. It stars Tom Hanks, Alexander Black, and Indian actress Sarita Choudhury. Tom Hanks is his usual fulsome self but in a more sub­dued role. The supporting actors quit them­selves well in a lack­luster story.

MPAA rated it R for some sexuality/nudity, language and brief drug use. It was filmed in Ouarzazate, Morocco to simulate the Saudi back­drop. It's a merciful 98 minutes long.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

Of the two jokes told in this movie, one of them is lame and the other falls flat. The wolf hunt adventure is a yawn. The sex is either out of practice or a letdown. The scenery is flat, or you have to use your imagination. The perky opening song is sung by some­one untalented. The swim­suit scene is topless, but lasts only as long as one can hold his breath. The racing sports car, a 2015 Audi R8, doesn't have any­thing to compete against in the desert. The jet lag is contagious, but we hope not Hanks's condition. The forbidden city of Mecca can stay that way for all we care. The special effect of a cell phone cutting out on a heckling boss was home­spun. The slower Saudi pace is drawn out enough that we get the message. If this Tom Hanks movie were a dessert, it would be dark chocolate, the candy that's not too sweet and could almost pass as a vegetable. How­ever, as a drama it's a good one, just probably not to every­one's taste.

Movie Ratings

Action Factor: Weak action scene. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Well done special effects. Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day. Suspense: Predictable. Overall product rating: Four stars out of five.