Tom Hanks should be deeply ashamed of himself. Enough so, that I’ll say it again: Tom Hanks should be deeply ashamed of himself. “My” hero, and that of many others, from “Forrest Gump,” which was released in 1994, and dealt incisively with numerous quintessential American themes. From the brilliant performance in “Forrest Gump” to the culture-deaf one in Hologram… wasn’t it a long way down?
Tom Tykwer directed “Hologram…” which was released in 2016, based on a novel by David Eggers, which was published in 2012. How could Hanks have not asked himself: is this at all realistic? And how many parachute journalist cliches can be dumped into one movie? It is unclear if Hanks has ever been to Saudi Arabia. The credits indicate that the movie was filmed on location Germany, Morocco, Egypt, the USA and Saudi Arabia.
In the movie, at least, Hanks goes to Saudi Arabia. He is down-on-his-luck, recently divorced, with a daughter to help support, and he is without a home. He needs to close “the big sale,” and is to make a presentation to the King of Saudi Arabia about the IT package his company can deliver in conjunction with the opening of a new city in the desert. Can you imagine President Biden sitting through a vendor IT presentation to revamp, for example, the computer systems in the Pentagon? Never happen, G.I. Likewise, the King of Saudi Arabia does not sit through IT presentations, even if designed to dazzle the natives in their colorful costumes, like producing a hologram of an individual.
Consider that this is “the big sale,” not only for Hanks, but for his company. He knows so little about the customs and laws of the Kingdom that he calls the hotel front desk and asks that a beer be sent to his room. Yeah. His Saudi driver forgets to take the correct turn for “non-Muslims” and is suddenly in downtown Makkah (Mecca). No hint that in real life there is a very real checkpoint to prevent such “mistakes.” Naturally, en route there, they drive past the mosque where “the beheadings take place.”
Ah, just suppose one is a bedpost notcher, by nationality. At the apex of this game, surely, is a Saudi woman. Earlier, Hanks indicates that, well, he is a bit non-functional and a Danish woman bluntly offers him a traditional time-honored cure. And he turns her down! Rather, he seems to be “saving himself” for the Saudi woman, who is in the throes of her own divorce.
They meet because she is his medical doctor (another highly unlikely to impossible scenario). She is played by Sarita Choudhury, a British national, of half English, half Indian ethnicity. She once played the lead role in “Mississippi Masala.” They end up at her absolutely gorgeous villa, without any walls, on the Red Sea, and somehow her kids are nowhere to be seen. Soon she is swimming topless in the Red Sea, with him, purportedly so that the neighbors might think she is a man!! Hum. Nonetheless, there is something delightful about a woman of a certain age still willing to pop off the top and let the water and his gaze envelope her. If you must see this movie, please consider fast forwarding to this memorable scene. With only the slightest imagination, the viewer could envision the offer of the Danish woman being fulfilled, a thought that at least saves this movie from the oblivion of no stars, and thus, 1-star, with apologies to my Saudi friends for yet another movie devoid of any realistic understanding of the fascinating subject of Saudi-Western interactions.