Sunday, August 21, 2016

Late to the theater...

This weekend two very different films set in the Islamic middle east were watched here.  For the most part they have been in and done at the theaters, so they were available on Netflix.  The first was "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot", which was loosely based on the memoirs of a woman journalist covering the war in Afghanistan.  Starring Tina Fey and with Margot Robbie, it is meant to be both a somewhat humorous but informative look at an obviously a serious situation.

For those hoping that they would see film footage of Afghanistan, and one could at first assume that they were, but it was filmed in New Mexico.  At least that was well done.  While not quite ever getting accustomed to seeing Tina Fey playing anything serious, the film was mostly entertaining and did show the travails of and dangers faced by journalists covering the war, especially female journalists.  It also showed the close knit community of journalists in "Kabubble" as they sought relief from the stress through aggressive partying.

"A Hologram for the King", a film based on the book of the same name by Dave Eggers, is the story of a troubled and aging salesman sent by a large U.S. construction and technology company to bid on a major project in Saudi Arabia.  Tom Hanks plays the main character.  The film has its slow parts and its engaging parts, but rarely has any edge of the seat action.  The salesman needs to wade through a range of cultural barriers and understand how the society works, especially as expected norms for the majority of the country's citizens do not apply to the wealthy who live there or to the expats and diplomats who are there as well.

Regardless of where this film is located, the crux of the film is the life of the salesman, divorced, past his prime in his career, absolutely needing some success, missing his early '20's daughter, and anxious about midlife health scares.  In this unusual country he finally becomes grounded and unexpectedly finds his place.

Of the two films, "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot" did more to entertain but "A Hologram for the King" gave more insight into the country that it was situated in.  Reflecting further on the films, it seems clear that the Tom Hanks character will have much more of a lasting impact on most viewers than the Tina Fey character.  For those who might wonder, Margot Robbie kept her clothes on and Sarita Choudhury did not.

With the inclusion of that last sentence, it is acknowledged that neither of these films is worth a trip to the theater for most people, but they helped pass part of two evening's decompression.


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