Directed by: Tom Tykwer
Written by: Dave Eggers (novel), Tom Tykwer (screenplay)
Starring: Tom Hanks, Alexander Black, Sarita Choudhury, Tracy Fairaway
Released: 20th May 2016

Upon hearing the title of this film, I assumed I was walking into a period drama with more monologues and bore. Was I wrong!

This film is based on the 2002 best seller of the same name by Dave Eggers. Starring Tom Hanks, he is a sales rep in an IT company to sell their technology to the King of Saudi Arabia. Baffled by local customs and bureaucracy by the company he is supposed to do the presentation for, he eventually finds his footing with the help of a wise-cracking Arabic taxi driver (Alexander Black), who appears at his beck and call, and a beautiful Saudi doctor (Sarita Choudhury).

Hanks stars as Alan Clay, a plucky but washed-up corporate businessman who has had problems in his previous job recalled to us as snap shots in his dreams. He is pressured to go Saudi Arabia (due to meeting the King’s cousin randomly through another job) to propose and close a business deal. Hanks managed to portray a man having a mid life crisis but being in denial in front of his work colleagues, taxi driver and even daughter very convincingly.

Clay is given barely any information before he travels to Saudi Arabia and is still left in the dark as he can never seem to get hold of the contact Karim. Eventually he sneaks upstairs in the corporate building (as opposed to being housed in a tent in the desolate dessert) and comes across a Danish lady working for Karim, Hannah. She gives Clay an outlet to relate to his culture when she invites him to a Danish Embassy party where things get very kinky and very fast but somehow none of this makes him feel better. Moonshine is the closest he can get to a beer as alcohol consumption is not prohibited in the hotel. And he eventually loses his grip on reality and has an anxiety attack.

yousef dr hakeem hologram

An anxiety attack stemming from a mixture of places: pressure for the project to work, his ex-wife constant reminders of his life failures, his daughter working as a waitress as she can’t afford to go college and a mysterious lymph on his back, mount upon him. Clay decides to blame all his stresses on the lump and feels once it is removed things will improve. At first Dr Hakeem believes it is benign and there is nothing to worry about but after the results get back he is requested to attend surgery the next day.

Taxi driver Yousef was one of the nice characters who made Clay feel at home and was in fact his guide to life there and customs. When he jokes about turning the engine of his car off every time he leaves the vehicle to prevent it blowing up due to a jealous lover’s husband I was almost on the floor with laughter. Clay however was not so much amused that he may be sitting in a detonated car. He encourages Yousef to come clean to his girlfriend’s husband that they are not having an affair they just talk on the phone.

The film explores different cultures, the clash and then the realisation that it’s all the same just different languages. Clay feels an affinity to Dr. Hakeem who later responds to his advances and they go on a date. Both are divorced, with kids and lonely. I didn’t expect their relationship to escalate so far in the movie nor Dr. Hakeem flashing him whilst swimming topless (as she doesn’t want the neighbours to know she is swimming with a guy) so wants to be mistaken for a dude). However the film was wholesome and I felt everything was addressed by the end. Eventually the King appears after much avoiding and well Clay’s company does not get the contract, a cheaper, Chinese company undercut them which seems to be a resounding notion in the movie.
It will leave you feeling like there is still hope for the world or for yourself. Not the most action packed or humorous concept for a story but all the life point come across well. Also, China wins everything.

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