“And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife/ And you may ask yourself/ Well … how did I get here?”

— “Once in a Lifetime,” Talking Heads song

Alan Clay (Tom Hanks) goes shopping in the global village and finds himself standing in a suit and tie, briefcase in hand, sunburnt, hair askew, with his Cole Haan loafers full of sand. Alan is in Saudi Arabia, where his new bosses have sent him to convince a desert king to buy their new technology: a holographic internet system.

Alan is walking on thin ice, or in this case, thin sand, hoping to resurrect a collapsing career in hi-tech sales.

Alan’s mistakes tanked his former job, sending Schwinn bike company jobs to China. But his reputation as a go-getting, deal-making pro has landed him here on a last chance episode.

At this moment, Alan is divorced, has lost his house and is unable to come up with his beloved daughter’s school tuition. She’s back in school in Boston and worried, but she loves him and will tough it out working as a waitress. Dave Eggers’ 2012 novel is reportedly darker and of course, as usual, better than this script. Probably, but the script is not that bad. Eggers’ characters are all intact: Yousef (Alexander Black), a standard comic Muslim chauffeur for hire, and Hanne (Sidse Babett Knudsen), a European tech consultant for another company, who introduces Alan to the wild cocaine and booze parties of the other bored international sales groups hidden away from the hypocritical Saudi clergy.


Let’s talk about the egg-sized growth on Alan’s back that he’s been strangely ignoring. While stoned, he tries to take it out with a kitchen knife. The result is blood-stained sheets and Polo dress shirt.

Welcome Zahra, a mysterious, sultry and stunning Saudi doctor (the smoky Indian/British sensualist, Sarita Choudhury) who comes to his rescue and sets up an operation just in time. (Tiny cancer cells dwell within.) But that’s just another side plot that disappears soon.

What’s blowing sand in Alan’s dreams is the Saudi royal hierarchy, who run on Saudi time and keep sending him from one empty building to another while they entertain another offer from, wouldn’t you know, China.

Hanks is famous for saving bad movies, giving life to mediocre ones and adding great to good ones. “Hologram” falls somewhere in between all of these, and he doesn’t let us down. After all, he’s why we’re here, right?

What really saves this one is the relationship that develops between Alan and his hot, Garden of Allah doctor. Choudhury (“Hunger Games: Mockingjay 2,” “Learning to Drive”) heats up any film she walks into.

Choudhury is a divorced top surgeon with a to-die-for beach home on the Red Sea, even though the movie was shot in Morocco and Egypt, so I’m guessing it’s probably the Mediterranean.

It’s here where director Tom Tykwer (“Run, Lola, Run”) and cinematographer Frank Griebe, his cameraman from “Run,” put Hanks and a topless Choudhury into a sensual underwater scuba sex scene among gorgeous reefs and colorful fish.

Adding to Alan’s adventures, his driver dresses him as a Muslim and takes him on a ride to the mountains past the holy Mecca. Hold your breath and put on your shayla and keffiyeh.

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