Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime” leads off this story about Alan Clay (Tom Hanks), a divorced salesman at a “Well, how did I get here?” crossroads. Fortunately, Hanks—reunited with Cloud Atlas co-director Tom Tykwer, adapting Dave Eggers’ 2013 novel—pulls together this odd contraption, which follows Alan as he tries to resurrect his crumbling career by negotiating a sale of IT infrastructure to the King of Saudi Arabia for a massive proposed city. Surreal elements flit through the narrative, from that opening music-video-cum-nightmare to the nature of a large lump in the middle of Alan’s back, as well as the bureaucracy of this would-be oasis. It could have—and probably even should have—played as little more than a sadsack mid-life crisis, given a little exoticism by Alan’s interactions with the locals, including a kindly doctor (Sarita Choudhury). But Hanks sells it with his commitment to playing an old-school, “where ya from” salesman in a new kind of world. There are times when watching him act is enough, even when there are times that he’s the only thing in this Hologram that feels real.
Director: Tom Tykwer
Producer: Uwe Schott, Stefan Arndt, Arcadiy Golubovich, Tim O'Hair, Gary Goetzman, Steven Shareshian, Gaston Pavlovich, Claudia Bluemhuber, Irene Gall, Gero Bauknecht, Jim Seibel, Bill Johnson and Shervin Pishevar
Cast: Tom Hanks, Alexander Black, Sarita Choudhury, Sidse Knudsen, Tracey Fairaway, Jane Perry, Tom Skerritt, Ben Whishaw and David Menkin