Review of the week
FILM: A HOLOGRAM FOR THE KING
CAST: TOM HANKS, ALEXANDER BLACK, SARITA CHOUDHURY, SIDSE BABETT KNUDSEN, TRACEY FAIRAWAY, JANE PERRY, TOM SKERRITT
DIRECTOR: TOM TYKWER (ENGLISH, ARABIC DIALOGUE)
CLASSIFICATION: 10-12PG D L N
REVIEWER: PETER FELDMAN
In my book Tom Hanks has always proved the consummate actor and in Tom Tykwer’s striking production he again hits the mark.
Tykwer has adapted Dave Eggers’ novel about an American businessman who finds himself adrift amid the shimmering sands of Saudi Arabia while attempting to score a big contract by presenting an elaborate holographic teleconferencing system to the King.
Alan Clay (Hanks) is a man trying bravely to hold onto his job in a depressed 2010 economy who finds the obstacles he faces becoming more insurmountable each day.
The area in which Clay finds himself is a metropolis-in-the-making where his company desperately needs to secure the multi-million dollar contract. But failure and frustration go hand in hand as this sad sack businessman, in a fish-out of-water scenario, tries to make some sense of what is going on around him.
Frustrated each day by the Saudi’s bureaucratic approach, where meeting after meeting is cancelled, and the Monarch is a no-show, Clay and his three colleagues face some daunting possibilities. They are housed in a tent in the desert which is without air-conditioning and, worse still, without Wi-Fi. Each new morning Clay, who continually oversleeps, appears at the King’s Metropolis of Economy and Trade, a skeleton of a city projected to see completion around 2025. Again the team confronts a fresh round of oddities and disappointments, and it soon resembles something out of ‘Groundhog Day’.
During his misadventure, Clay finds a friend in his driver, Yousef (Alexander Black), a genial goofball who is obsessed with American pop and who once studied in Alabama, where he learnt to speak English. He also meets a friendly Danish associate named Hanne (Sidse Babett Knudsen) who supplies him with a forbidden bottle of Scotch (disguised in an olive oil bottle) and attempts to seduce him at a wild Danish Embassy party. But Clay has his head turned by an alluring, but reserved Saudi doctor Zahra (Sarita Choudhury) – who treats him on more than one occasion.
Director Tom Tykwer, who also wrote the screenplay, has explored the humorous and romantic elements of the story at the expense of its deeper more existential qualities.
The result is an off-beat exercise that lumbers along as Tykwer meticulously chips away at Hanks’ trusty Everyman image. The actor is certainly a versatile individual, but viewers may find it a little disconcerting to watch the character lance a giant cyst with a meat knife and later being exposed to a tableau of blood and vomiting.
Also unsettling is observing Hanks portraying a failure of a man, one far removed from the principled heroics of his other creations in ‘Bridge of Spies’ and ‘Captain Phillips’.
As if to reinforce Clay’s pathetic existence, there are cutting flashbacks to his failed marriage; his testy relationship with his daughter (Tracey Fairway), who forgives him for not being able to pay for her college tuition; and his disillusioned father (Tom Skerritt), a retired factory worker who is critical of places like Saudi Arabia where America is outsourcing its jobs.
But the film captivates in its own plodding way, in the depiction of the various strata of Saudi society and in the atmospheric shots of a sweltering, dusty desert contrasting with the tall, white, immaculately built Western-type skyscrapers of its cities.
Finally, Tom Hanks offers a warmly sympathetic reading that is never cloying and anchors the production admirably.
Other releases (synopsis)
FILM: FINDING DORY
CAST: Ellen DeGeneres, Idris Elba, Michael Sheen
DIRECTOR: Lindsey Collins
Disney•Pixar’s ‘Finding Dory’ welcomes back to the big screen moviegoers’ favourite forgetful blue tang, Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres), who’s living happily in the reef with Nemo (voice of Hayden Rolence) and Marlin (voice of Albert Brooks).
When Dory suddenly remembers that she has a family out there who may be looking for her, the trio takes off on a life-changing adventure across the ocean to California’s prestigious Marine Life Institute, a rehabilitation centre and aquarium. In an effort to find her mom (voice of Diane Keaton) and dad (voice of Eugene Levy), Dory enlists the help of three of the MLI’s most intriguing residents: Hank (voice of Ed O’Neill), a cantankerous octopus who frequently gives employees the slip; Bailey (voice of Ty Burrell), a beluga whale who is convinced his echolocation skills are in a bad way; and Destiny (voice of Kaitlin Olson), a nearsighted whale shark deftly navigating the complex inner workings of the MLI.
The film follows Dory and her friends discovering the magic within their flaws, friendships and family.
‘Finding Nemo’ won the 2003 Academy Award for best animated feature. The film was also nominated for three additional Oscars (original screenplay, original score, sound editing). It was also nominated for a Golden Globe Award for best motion picture–comedy or musical. In 2008, the American Film Institute named ‘Finding Nemo’ among the top 10 greatest animated films ever made.
At the time of its release, ‘Finding Nemo’ was the highest grossing G-rated movie of all time. It’s the fifth highest grossing animated film worldwide.
“I have waited for this day for a long, long, long, long, long, long time,” says DeGeneres. “I’m not mad it took this long. I know the people at Pixar were busy creating ‘Toy Story 16.’
But the time they took was worth it. The script is fantastic. And it has everything I loved about the first one: It’s got a lot of heart, it’s really funny, and the best part is—it’s got a lot more Dory.”
FILM: THE NICE GUYS
CAST: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Matt Bomer, Margaret Qualley, Keith David, Yaya Dacosta, Beau Knapp, Kim Basinger
DIRECTOR: Shane Black
‘The Nice Guys’ takes place in 1970s Los Angeles, when down-on-his-luck private eye Holland March (Ryan Gosling) and hired enforcer Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) must work together to solve the case of a missing girl and the seemingly unrelated death of a porn star. During their investigation, they uncover a shocking conspiracy that reaches up to the highest circles of power.
“L.A. in the ‘70s was this mouldering town where smog covered the city like a crust and Hollywood Boulevard had turned into this cesspool of pornography. And in this scenario, you get these two numbnuts who kind of stumble into shoes they can never fill when they uncover this huge conspiracy. So you’ve got your corruption, you’ve got your decadence, and then the question became how unsettlingly inappropriate could we make these two guys for the task for which they set themselves up,” says writer/director Shane Black.
This is not the first time Black has created an unlikely pairing and pitted them against a powerful adversary for which they would, on paper, seem outmatched. Exactly 30 years ago, he sold his first script to producer Joel Silver — an actioner about a by-the-book detective reluctantly partnered with an unhinged cop named Riggs. That movie was ‘Lethal Weapon’…and the rest, as they say, is history. Following three ‘Lethal Weapon’ sequels, Silver also produced ‘The Last Boy Scout’ and ‘Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang’, the latter of which marked Black’s directorial debut. After 10 years, they have reunited again on ‘The Nice Guys’.
Joel Silver remarks, “I think Shane has a unique cinematic voice. His movies are not traditional comedies; they are action pictures with humour, which is a different aesthetic. They’re serious stories about hardboiled, tough guys. There are comedic moments throughout the film, but the hard-edged action helps to make the humour work.”