A Hologram for the ADHD Generation
Amidst the bigger hitters that Tom Hanks has delivered across the years, come the smaller pieces which are seldom less than entertaining, and often nice surprises.2004's The Terminal was one such example, as were his multiple perfromances in co-writer/director Tom Twyker's Cloud Atlas, an impressive and underrated endeavour that also involved the Wachowskis and an all-star cast. He reunites with Twkyer here – again on writing/directing duties – for A Hologram for the King, a tale curiously reminiscent of another fish-out-of-water-and-stuck-in-the-desert dramedy, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. His glorified senior IT salesman, Alan, is supposed to be pitching holographic technology to a Saudi King who wants to build a city in the desert. Only the King never comes, and Alan and his team find the open-ended wait and the complete lack of communication unbearably frustrating. As the mistakes – and scars – of his past haunt him, and his future looks increasingly uncertain, Alan fights to reclaim his life and find a new direction.Hanks can carry almost any movie, and whilst Twyker's offbeat alternate tale of a middle-life crisis in Saudi Arabia is distinctly slight in nature, it's easy to see why the veteran actor was drawn to such a story at this particular point in his own career. Twyker could have taken a deeper, more resonant approach to investigating the subject-matter, but instead plays it safe with a fast-edited, era-of-social-media-styled piece which attempts to keep the audience's interest with gimmickry, sharp cuts and snappy pacing, and loses the impact of some of its more important moments as a result. Indeed the biggest impact comes in the final act, a particularly rushed extended coda whose own mini-arc is arguably more interesting than that of the main narrative itself. Nonetheless it's an unusual curio from Hanks; a safe play for sure, but a smaller piece than he is usually involved in, and one which is not without its merits.
Picture QualityThe UK Blu-ray release of Hologram boasts a strong 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen
Detail is excellent throughout, with clarity coming courtesy of some superior digital cinematography, which laps up the unusual and expansive locations even though its colours run quite hot in order to bring life to the otherwise drained deserst settings. Grain and further texturing appear to be implemented in post, to give it a suitably filmic look, although seldom at the expense of detail even if there is a hint of sharpness lost around the edges. Black levels are strong and allow for decent night sequences with no loss of shadow detail, and skin tones and sporadic primaries remain vibrant. Overall, whilst it may not be outright demo material, it's a very good video presentation nonetheless that certainly does this smaller scale Hanks vehicle justice.
Sound QualityThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track also does a solid if far from exceptional job with some relatively laid-back, minimalistic material
The opening nightmare has more punch than much of what follows, with dialogue promoted clearly and coherently across the front and centre channels, retaining clarity over the remaining elements although that is understandably not a particualrly challenging task. The effects array brings the sandy desert environment to life, whipping dusty winds across the channels, and pulling you into the piece with a subtle immersion which makes for a very natural and convincing backging to the feature. The only punch comes from the nightclub sequence and the occasional classic track blasting out from a car stereo, both of which take you somewhat by (welcome) surprise in what is an otherwise very reserved offering. With little significant bass to speak of, this was never going to be demo worthy, but it's a solid, authentic accompaniment to what is inherently limited material.
ExtrasDropping a couple of the US disc's extras, all we get is a single 20-minute EPK-flavoured Making-of
VerdictFlirting with resonance, Hologram plays it fast and loose with a reputedly far better source novel that Hanks reportedly adores
A strong Blu-ray release boasts impressive video and audio but lacks a little on the extras front even in comparison to its US counterpart. Hanks completists won't hesitate in adding it to their collection but everybody else interested should consider a rental first.
You can buy A Hologram for the King on Blu-ray here
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