An agreeable enough, quite restrained Tom Hanks feature, most notable in being a rare film set virtually entirely in Saudi Arabia - despite it being, apart from a few exterior shots, filmed in Morocco.
Hanks is a divorced company executive whose mission is to put on a display for the Saudi king a new technique of communication which enables an individual to interact with a life-sized hologram of another person and to speak and interact as though both were in the same room. (In his demonstrations there are fleeting appearances of Ben Whishaw, whom I haven't seen on screen for as many as ,what, five or six films now!)
There are a number of moments of levity, mainly between Hanks and his unofficial and self-appointed, bi-lingual Arab driver/chauffeur (Alexander Black, completely convincing in the part. I was astonished when I discovered that he wasn't a genuine native of the country) as the Hanks character tries to find his way around the country's strict religious and social mores.
Much of the time is taken by Hanks being frustrated at the king's postponing time and time again his visit to the area where an entirely new, large city is being constructed in the desert, still in its embryonic state. He also has parallel difficulties in meeting the royal spokesman to request assistance to him and his American/European staff of three who don't have the essentials to fulfil his objective, such as reliable WiFi connection.
There's a parallel strand about Hanks finding a mysterious, ugly and disturbing swelling on his back near the spine, for which he visits the local hospital and is surprised to find himself examined and treated by an obligatory headscarved, female doctor/surgeon (Sarita Choudury), with procedures which lead to an operation.
I won't state explicitly what happens at the end but I did feel that the film's final few minutes did jerk the whole enterprise into an area which I thought was widely improbable - though I've no doubt that such things do occur now and then. It just seemed to me to detract from all that had gone before and dragged it down a notch to what it might otherwise have been.
The director is German Tom Tykwer, who has directed at least two of my very favourite films in relatively recent years, viz. 'Cloud Atlas' and 'Perfume: The Story of a Murderer'.
He does okay with this material, but I maintain that the single most memorable thing about it is its very rarely depicted Saudi Arabian setting............6.
1 hour ago