A failed American businessman looks to recoup his losses by traveling to Saudi Arabia and selling his idea to a wealthy monarch.
2016/UK/France/Germany/USA/ICON Film Distribution/98mins/Drama-Comedy
Release Date: 20/05/2016
Director: Tom Tykwer
Cast: Tom Hanks, Alexander Black, Sarita Choudhury, Sidse Babett Knudsen;
During the opening sequence you could be forgiven for thinking that you have walked into a commercial with Tom Hanks taking the lead, singing/talking and dancing his way through Talking Heads, Once in a Lifetime. However, fear not, it’s rather an inspired piece of film making, setting the tone for the rest of the film. It also happens to be one of my favourite songs, so I am a little biased, to say the least.
It is only a dream …… Alan Clay (Tom Hanks) a recently divorced 50 something is sitting on a plane headed to Saudi Arabia, where he and his sales team are to pitch a project to the King himself. However, on arrival, he finds nothing is in place and the King is on the ‘missing list’.
He is so exhausted that the next day he oversleeps and has to hire a car and driver in order to take him to the King’s Metropolis of Economy & Trade which is the site of the new project. As the film progresses, things go from bad to worse as he finally realises that however hard he tries to put things in order, there will always be more hurdles to overcome. Meanwhile, his team are becoming more and more frustrated and the King cannot be accounted for.
Just when you think that the film is actually getting to be a little ‘samey’, along comes the ‘love’ interest in the shape of Dr Zahra Haken (Sarita Choudhury – Mira Berenson from Homeland) whom he meets after his botched attempt to excise a cyst on his back! You can’t get more romantic than that ……
Failure seems to be the underlying theme here, similar to Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. We learn more about Clay from the flashback sequences; his telephone conversations with his daughter (Tracey Fairaway), whose college fees he is unable to meet; his failed marriage and the relationship with his father (Tom Skerritt).
The film has been adapted from David Eggert’s best-selling book of the same name by Tom Tykwer, who also directs the film and is best known for his 1998 film, Run Lola Run.
Frank Griebe’s cinematography of the desert settings is stunning (Morocco and Egypt stand in for Saudi and there is some very interesting footage of Mecca as well). However, the film is ‘saved’ to some extent, by the relationship between Clay and his driver/guide, Yousef (played by US comedian, Alexander Black) and of course, Hank’s performance itself. The interaction between these two characters, lifts the film no end
I adore Tom Hanks and I will go to see any film in which he appears and he never fails to disappoint. Whilst I enjoyed the film, it doesn’t really know where it is going. I found it disjointed – too many storylines with not enough in-depth detail about any of them eg the film would have been better served by more drama and concentrating on his business life in Saudi or perhaps it could have concentrated on the ‘love’ angle and made more on his burgeoning friendship with a Muslim woman, who appears to go against the grain. They both are going through what appears to be horrendous divorces, but unlike the West, her life in Saudi living, with a non-Muslim (out of wedlock) will also have repercussions.
I think a Middle Eastern version of ‘You’ve Got Mail’ would have made a more entertaining film, but nevertheless, I did enjoy it and I think ‘Hanks fans’, will too.
Twitch Factor: Sub Zero