A Hologram for the King (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 5, 2016 by  


Director Tom Tykwer’s “A Hologram for the King” is quite delightful and it features a powerful performance by Tom Hanks. Unfortunately, the film’s pacing issues prevents the film from becoming a true winner, but yet, I enjoyed the film and definitely recommend it!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Hologram for the King, Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: A Hologram for the King


DURATION: 98 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1), English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English and Spanish

COMPANY: Lionsgate

RATED: R (Some Sexuality/Nudity , Language and Brief Drug Use)

Release Date: August 9, 2016

Directed by Tom Tykwer

Novel by David Eggers

Written by Tom Tykwer

Produced by Stefan Arndt, Gary Goetzman, Arcadiy Golubovich, Tim O’Hair, Uwe Schott

Co-Producer: Karim Debbagh, Leonard Glowinski

Executive-Producer: Gero Bauknecht, Claudia Bluemhuber, Bill Johnson, Gaston Pavlovich, Shervin Pishevar, Jim Seibel

Associate Producer: Alex Boden

Cinematography by Frank Griebe

Music by Johnny Klimek, Tom Tykwer

Edited by Alexander Berner

Casting by Noureddine Aberdine, Michelle Guish, Avy Kaufman, Gaby Kester, Mounir Sagula

Production Design by Uli Hanisch

Art Direction by Abdellah Baadil Daniel Chour, Kai Koch, Marco Trentini

Costume Design by Pierre-Yves Gayraud


Tom Hanks as Alan

Alexander Black as Yousef

Sarita Choudhury as Zahra

Sidse Babett Knudsen as Hanne

Tracey Fairaway as Kit

Jane Perry as Ruby

Tom Skerritt as Ron

Academy Award® winner Tom Hanks delivers one of his most engaging performances as Alan Clay, a recently divorced American businessman who is sent overseas to pitch a state-of-the-art holographic teleconferencing system to a king. As Alan vainly tries to navigate new and unusual customs, he finds himself thrust into a series of wonderful misadventures, and a fateful encounter that changes his life forever.

Tom Tykwer is known for directing and composing the music for films such as “Run Lola Run”, “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer”, “The International” and “Cloud Atlas”.

And now, Tykwer returns with his latest film “A Hologram for the King”, based on the novel Dave Eggers (Screenwriter for “Where the Wild Things Are”.

The film stars Tom Hanks (“The Da Vinci Code”, “Forrest Gump”, “Saving Private Ryan”), Alexander Black, Sarita Choudhury (“Lady of the Water”, “A Perfect Murder”, “The Hunger Games – Mocking Jay” films), Sidse Babett Knudsen (“Borgen”, “The One and Only”, “The Duke of Burgundy”), Jane Perry (“World War Z”, “The Three Musketeers”) and Tom Skerrit (“Top Gun”, “Alien”, “Ted”).

“A Hologram for the King” revolves around IT consultant Alan Clay (portrayed by Tom Hanks).  Depressed and suffering several issues after losing his family, his home and now, having difficulties at work.

He is in constant stress to perform well and to also make enough to put his daughter into college, let alone deal with health issues that are starting to happen.

Alan now has to go to Saudi Arabia to promote and sell a holographic teleconferencing to the Saudi government’s plan for a upcoming development called the King’s Metropolis of Economy and Trade.

And as Alan deals with the stress and anxiety of having to make the deal happen, his life changes with interactions with his driver Yousef (portrayed by Alexander Black) and his doctor, Zahra (portrayed by Sarita Choudhury) and a culture/lifestyle much different than his own.


“A Hologram for the King” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio). The film looks vibrant in outdoor Saudi Arabia day scenes and close ups are full of detail. Skintones look natural. I didn’t notice any banding or artifacts during my viewing of the film. For the most part, picture quality for the film is great!


“A Hologram for the King” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The soundtrack is primarily dialogue and music driven with ambiance used for the surround channels.  Especially for crowd scenes or scene involving a vehicle (as you can hear the engines of the cars in the surround channels). Overall, the dialogue and music are both are crystal clear.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and Spanish.


“A Hologram for the King” comes with the following special features:

  • The Making of a Hologram for the King – (19:55) A behind-the-scenes making of “A Hologram for the King” with interviews with director Tom Tykwer and author Dave Eggers.  Including cast and crew about filming in Saudi Arabia.
  • From Novel to Screen: The Adaptation of a “Hologram for the King” – (11:50) Interviews with director Tom Tykwer and author Dave Eggers and how they collaborated with each other.
  • Perfecting the Culture – (10:08) A featurette about capturing the culture in the film.


“A Hologram for the King” comes with a slipcover an UltraViolet Digital HD code.

Part of the challenge of reviewing a Tom Hanks film is that while we are accustomed to his acting, which he has won a multitude of awards for.  And starring in films that have also won many awards, the challenge is that you expect quality.

That is quality in relation to production, writing and from Hanks and cast, you expected powerful performances.

Have we been spoiled by Tom Hanks films in the past that the bar has been raised high and we expect nothing but award-winning films?

And how will the actor do with the creative Tom Twyker as director?

Those are some of the questions that I had prior to watching “A Hologram for the King” and a day after watching it and having thought about the film, my feelings were that “A Hologram for the King” benefits from the performance by Tom Hanks, the problem with the film is that there are pacing issues in which certain areas feel a bit rushed.

The story focuses on a depressed, stressed IT salesperson who is in having difficulties in his life and now has the task of trying to sell the Saudi Arabian government in holographic technology.

But the film is primarily how the setting of Saudi Arabia and the people he comes in contact, changes his life.

One thing I was skeptical about is seeing Alexander Black play the character of a Saudi man named Yousef.  While I’m a bit critical of people of Hollywood casting agents and directors not pushing for the hiring of actors and actresses who are of the ethnicity for the specific ethnic role, I will give Adam Black credit for his versatility as an actor and in playing the character of Yousef. There was a worldwide search for the 2nd lead role and he did a pretty solid job of playing the character.

The half-Indian and half-English Sarita Choudhury also did a good job of playing the character Zahra and the doctor who would fall for her patient..

But most importantly, for filmmaker Tom Tykwer to research Saudi Arabian culture, work with people to make the film seem authentic and for the most part, the display of culture and differences in culture which the Hanks character, Alan, has to quickly learn that Saudi Arabia is quite different from the country he came from.

I would love to see more smaller scenes of Alan learning from those in Saudi Arabia of various customs and culture, in order to build upon his willingess to learn and understand the culture and then eventually, building upon Alan starting to really understand Yousef and Zahra’s predicaments and lifestyle.

But there are also details which I felt Tykwer did very well to cover, especially in regards to Alan and Zahra, and a professional woman in Saudi Arabia.

I felt that these relationships of friendship and understanding needed a bit more fleshing out as the transition to its narrative ending felt a little abrupt.

Still, I enjoyed “A Hologram for the King”.  For anyone who has worked in a high-paced environment and the expectations are high and quite often, seeing relationships that do not last, seeing one’s mental breakdown is common.

Part of the challenge from Tykwer was to showcase the present as the character of Alan is stressing about life back home, facing the what if’s that the deal does not happen.  Not only would he be looked down on in his job (and may not have his job, as he is considered a washed-up employee) but he would also not have the financial means to pay for his daughter’s education, which was a major contention in his divorce.

Tom Hanks had to deliver as a salesperson who has succumbed to his stressful environment back home but then starting to see a different culture, which the expectations of these individuals are much different.  Their lives are much different.  But the setting is somewhat new, different and inspiring for him.

I actually enjoyed the message of hope and I also love films that take on the subject of one understanding a different culture.  But the problems are more of how Alan gets from point A to point B but then quickly goes from point C and D and the character dynamics are hindered somewhat from the film’s pacing and it can feel a bit rushed.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality was fantastic.  Lossless audio was crystal clear and there are a few special features included, including a making-of and more.

Overall, director Tom Tykwer’s “A Hologram for the King” is quite delightful and it features a powerful performance by Tom Hanks. Unfortunately, the film’s pacing issues prevents the film from becoming a true winner, but yet, I enjoyed the film and definitely recommend it!


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