5 ideas about a movie: A Hologram for The King

Movie reviews

Hello!

Before I get back to reviewing big summer releases, let’s talk about one of the smaller films that I had a chance to see – A Hologram for The King.

IMDb summary: A failed American businessman looks to recoup his losses by traveling to Saudi Arabia and selling his idea to a wealthy monarch.

  1. The film was written and directed by Tom Tykwer. I absolutely loved his last film – Cloud Atlas, in collaboration with The Wachowskis. His 2006’s Perfume: The Story of a Murderer was also one of the first hardcore thrillers that I watched and enjoyed. I remember being 8 or 9 years old and watching that movie on a bus on my way to Germany. Because I liked Tykwer’s previous pictures , I was looking forward to his new movie. This time, he did not disappoint but didn’t exceed expectations either.
  2. The film was an adaptation of Dave Eggers’s book with the same name. The plot revolved around a depressed and down on his luck salesman who was trying to reinvent himself by escaping to Saudi Arabia. While being there, he not only learned a lot of things about himself but experienced a different culture, learned to deal with his past problems and even found love and friendship. The picture explored a diverse range of topics: the father-daughter relationship, the lack of time in the world, the inner workings of the international business trade and even love that crosses cultural barriers. The movie was a bit slow – nothing big happened. However, it was extremely realistic since it dealt with quite mundane activities, even if in an exotic setting.
  3. Tykwer did a good job directing the film. The visuals were nice – Saudi Arabia’s desserts and new cities were magnificent to look at. The car scenes and the back and forth dialogue between the characters were also realized in an interesting way. The party in the Danish embassy was also a pleasant surprise.
  4. Tom Hanks played the lead role and was, like always, really good. He is still one of the most reliable actors when it comes to quality. By any means, this wasn’t his best performance or the greatest role, but he was still good. Hanks’s most recent film was Bridge of Spies and later this year he will be in Inferno. Two standouts from the supporting cast were Alexander Black and Sarita Choudhury. I always appreciate a film which introduces me to talented actors that I haven’t known about before.
  5. A few movie suggestions based on A Hologram for The King. If you enjoyed those parts of the film that dealt with the reinvention of oneself, check out Eddie The Eagle – a cute, small scale underdog story. If you liked the business commentary, look up Money Monster. If you liked seeing the westerners in a foreign setting, I suggest you watch Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

In short, A Hologram for The King was an okay movie. There was nothing wrong with the film, but nothing really great or interesting. Hanks was good – even though this was probably only a paycheck for him, he still brought a nice performance. The writing and the directing were also fine.

Rate: 3.25/5

Trailer: A Hologram for The King trailer

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Movie review: The Walk

Movie reviews

Hello!

Sorry for the flood of movie reviews on my blog these past few days, but I promise you will get a break after this review. For now, let’s review The Walk – a film about walking on a high wire a few hundred meters in the air. To me, this seems like a ludicrous idea, since I easily trip and fall while walking on a solid ground.

IMDb summary: In 1974, high-wire artist Philippe Petit recruits a team of people to help him realize his dream: to walk the immense void between the World Trade Center towers.

Directing

The reason why I want to start this review with the director – Robert Zemeckis – is because he is the reason that I went to see this film. As you may know, my country of origin is Lithuania (I’ve moved to the UK a few months ago) and Zemeckis has Lithuanian roots, so I felt obliged to support my fellow Lithuanian or half Lithuanian. Moreover, he is a pioneer of visual effects and has made a lot of amazing films including Back to the Future trilogy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Forrest Gump, and Cast Away. However, I do not believe that The Walk is his best film or even close to this.

I have mixed feelings regarding this movie. On one hand, some CGI effects looked really fake (the towers at the beginning and the painfully obvious green screen during the exposition inserts – I wonder how did these scenes looked on IMAX) while other sequences were breathtaking (the actual walk or more accurately the walks). The ending sequence with an imaginary wire and the NY skyline dissolving into the black was my favorite shot. The black and white opening with some colorful details was an interesting choice as well. I just wish that this movie was edited more neatly so that beginning and ending would have had a bit more coherence.

Story

The Walk’s screenplay was based on real life events from 1974 when the real life Philippe Petit performed his dangerous and illegal stunt. Zemeckis himself, with the help of Christopher Browne, wrote the script, which could have benefited from the revision (the same with the visuals). Film’s story was really unfocused during the first half of the film and did not engage the viewer fully. It felt both rushed (characters did not receive any development) and the way too slow (lots of time passed with nothing really happening). There was no indication of the passage of time, so the audience couldn’t really tell how much time has passed between scenes – a day or a year? However, as much as I critic this film, I have to admit that the motion picture really shined during the second half when it found its focus: the preparation for walk sequence was even more interesting than the actual walk(s) scene because it had amazing suspense, which later carried on to the actual performance.

Though, while the 2nd part of the film was very enjoyable, some questionable choices were taking me out of the film throughout the whole run-time. For example, the exposition on top of the Statue of Liberty and the breaking of the 4th wall seemed like unnecessary and distracting additions to the film. Moreover, while I loved the European flavor of the film, their explanation of why the characters should speak English instead of French seemed quite stupid to me. Also, the fact that the character of Petit only did a few walks and trained for a bit and was prepared for the walk between the World Trade Center Towers was a bit unbelievable. However, according to google, World Trade Center Walk was only the 4th walk that Petit did IRL, so the movie stuck to the reality in that case. Lastly, while this film was based on real life events and might have wanted to stay as truthful to the real story as possible, some of the details of the plot were quite weird. For instance, why would you allow a guy who has a fear of heights on your team if you are planning to walk on a wire hundreds of meters in the air? It just seemed to be an unnecessary obstacle for Petit’s purpose and the comedic relief that it added was not worth it.

Acting

  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Philippe Petit was the star of this film. I have always been on the fence when it comes to Gordon-Levitt as an actor and I still remain on the fence. He has done some great films but he never really stuck out to me in any of them. I also had quite a lot of issues with his character in this film. I don’t know whether real-life Petit is like this, but the film’s Petit seemed like a very selfish and arrogant man (thief and troublemaker) and just and unlikable character who the viewer had to force himself/herself to like and root for. Furthermore, the way he held himself above the circus artists was not a nice thing to do. Also, why couldn’t they just cast a French actor to play this role? Levitt looks nothing like real life Petit, so it was definitely not the reason why he got the part. Also, I think they CGI-ied his face a bit but that just made it look weird and fake. However, the fakest thing of it all was the Gordon-Levitt’s accent, which took some time to get used to. Lastly, I would be interested to know, how much of the actual wire walking did Gordon-Levitt do and who was his stunt man.
  • Ben Kingsley as Papa Rudy and Charlotte Le Bon as Annie Allix were the two supporting characters, which received some development and I wish we could have spent more time with them since they seemed to be interesting. What mind boggles me the most, is the fact that they managed to cast a French actress in a lead female role but not the male one. Why? Speaking about Kingsley, I mostly remember him as Marvel’s The Mandarin, though he has done some better films than Iron Man 3. The last Le Bon’s film, which I’ve watched, was The Hundred-Foot Journey – I quite liked it. Plus, I have found out that she voiced Joy in the French version of Inside Out.
  • Clément Sibomy, James Badge Dale, César Domboy, Ben Schwartz, Benedict Samuel, and Steve Valentine also had supporting roles in the film. Sadly, they looked like really one-dimensional caricatures of real life people.

To sum up, The Walk was an okay film and so far – my least favorite film of the fall and the least likely candidate for any awards. The plot was messy, the visuals could have been neater and the choices for the actors and their characters – questionable. However, the suspense of the Walk(s) and the CGI of the final sequence made up for the previous shortcomings at least a bit.

Rate: 3.5/5

Trailer: The Walk trailer

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