This doesn’t need a long review in my opinion; it’s a very simple film, catering to very simple audience requirements.
Opening to a quirky 'Once In A Lifetime' number, it tells us right away from our leading man's introduction what sort of films this is - light-hearted.
First, we have Tom Hanks who is always watchable. For me, I can watch him in anything. Here, we are invited to experience a journey into unknown territory with Mr Hanks as Alan Clay, a businessman from America on the edge thanks to health concerns, family trouble and work stress – all heightened to the sweltering and unknown conditions of visiting Saudi Arabia.
Hanks here isn’t playing it as a direct comedy, but more a light-hearted drama. Sure, we have a few funny moments that the charming Hanks pulls off, but more often than not this is simple story telling without the need for gratuitous language, violence or action. Hanks grounds the film around decent co-stars (many unknowns) to give us a character story akin to his work in ‘Larry Crowne’ and, at times, ‘Cast Away’.
The Saudi Arabia cinematography is wonderful in really showing the country for all it’s worth – bustling cities and endless deserts just a car drive apart. We feel the heat as Alan navigates stuffy warm offices in a suit and tie, and relax with him in a dreamy hotel room with no shoes and socks.
The trailer gives away a good idea of the story – it’s rather obvious, with no big surprises or shocks. Man on the edge travels to unknown country, struggles to cope and battles the odds, has a moment where everything changes, finds a possible romance, evaluates his life for better or worse. It’s simple stuff, like I said, but it’s not marketed to be anything more.
It’s gentle, and warm and funny without being stuffed with overt comedy. Hanks, as I say, makes this watchable for me but I’m glad he pulled me in because the story and steady pace is interesting enough itself; experiences the steady rise in tension about sealing a business deal and overcoming a number of obstacles along the way was entertaining for over 90mins, away from the 2hr long action films and CGI epics playing on other cinema screens.
Take a step back from the mainstream blockbusters, and do what Alan Clay does – take a trip into the unknown with familiar company and experience everything that goes with it, because you’ll feel a little refreshed thank to it.