Tom Hanks is my favorite actor. Period. There is a handful of actors for whom I will head to the theater to see anything that they’re in, but Tom Hanks tops them all. He is so talented and versatile and open-minded and ambitious and intelligent and personable and down-to-earth and fun and on and on and on. I had originally planned on seeing Hardcore Henry, this weekend. But when I saw I would have to go to an entirely different city to see the new Tom Hanks movie (and Midnight Special as a bonus), my plans changed. And there are no regrets (though I still hope to get to see Hardcore Henry on the big screen. It’s looking unlikely, though.) because I will always see Tom Hanks’s films in the theater. Every time. He’s the best. That’s why I drove for almost ninety minutes to catch A Hologram for the King, this weekend. That was the closest it came to my house.
This film also marks the quarter-way mark on my march to seeing 100 2016 movies in the theater. What better way to hit that landmark than with my favorite actor? I (deliberately) knew very little about the film’s content going in. What may be Tom Hanks’s most famous movie quote is also a very description of his career: you never know what you’re gonna get. Comedy? Drama? A mix? Something else entirely? He can do it all. And he does. He’s the in-front-of-the-camera version of Steven Spielberg in the sense that he mixes fun, mainstream projects with deeper, more layered films. It’s one of the many things that makes him so great.
So, what about his newest film, A Hologram for the King? If I could sum it up in one word, that word would be “charming”. The film definitely leans towards being a comedy with dramatic leanings, rather than the other way around (which is what I was guessing it would be). And this is the second film this year that has featured a scene-stealing cab driver (remember Dopinder in Deadpool?) and the film is worth seeing for those scenes alone.
Beneath the funny bits lies a film about an aging man trying to feel relevant, again, which is something that most of us can either relate to already or will relate to, in the future. While the movie contains a fair amount of heart, it never beats the viewer over the head with it. This might be a boon in some people’s eyes but for me, it lacked a resonance that the story should have easily communicated. This is clearly a choice by director Tom Tykwer because all of the necessary elements are there to pull some heartstrings. But there was a decision to be made about whether the film was going to prioritize drama or comedy and the choice was made for comedy. I’m not criticizing that choice, seeing as how the comedy works. It might have been a missed opportunity in some places but then again, I often complain about when comedies get too serious, so I guess I’m being a little hypocritical here. So, never mind; can’t have it both ways. Anyway, to manage expectations, let me say that it’s not a gut-buster type of comedy, but rather a consistent-chuckle, down-to-earth style that doesn’t overreach and plays itself perfectly.
What I didn’t expect is the way the film toys with the audience and plays with their expectations and modern-day xenophobia. Set in the Middle East, Tykwer knows what many American audiences presume the film will be and there are genuine moments of suspense. I won’t say any more about those but I was surprised – and pleased – to see the way that these moments played out. This is Tykwer’s film and it’s his story, not yours.
There likely isn’t enough uniqueness to Hologram to separate it from the pack and allow it to be remembered come awards season. But it’s a nice little film and a worthy addition to Tom Hanks’s filmography. It’s in limited release, now, but it will hopefully expand, soon. If it does and you’re looking for a nice pick-me-up with strong acting and a witty script, I highly recommend it. Tom Hanks delivers, yet again.