1.5 out of 4 stars
by Bayard Lewis
The fate of most of the world’s population is at stake when an eccentric billionaire leaves behind a hidden virus intended to wipe out most of humanity and permanently remedy overpopulation. Tom Hanks reprises his role as Robert Langdon, an expert in art history, symbolism, and a puzzle solving wiz, that you may have seen in “The Da Vinci Code” and “Angels and Demons”.
Langdon awakens in a hospital struck with amnesia and a head wound, and he experiences nightmarish flashes of scenes from Dante’s Inferno. Suddenly people are out to kill him, setting into motion several elaborate chase scenes that weave through Italy. Running with him is Dr. Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones) and she is a better character than the bulk of the players that are so transitory that we can’t get lost in the plot maze with them. Jones does the best she can with this role and even though it’s nowhere near her best films, her earnestness does help move the plot along.
Tom Hanks has done very few bad films since achieving fame in Hollywood, but I’d like to hope that he was either contractually obligated to take on this film or maybe he did it as a favor to director Ron Howard to continue continuity with the character.
The real strength of the film are the historic landmarks used as plot devices: the Piazza San Marco in Venice, Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, and several areas in Florence. The spectacle of these locations captured for a dramatic film, however weak, was beautiful enough to keep me minimally engaged while I lost interest in the characters. There are a few plot twists that make a last ditch effort to save the film.
Screenwriter David Koepp adapted “Inferno” and he was already working within a framework that was too flawed to effectively translate a pop-thriller book to the screen. It doesn’t have enough character depth for mature viewers to care about the heroes and the chase sequences are yawn worthy after too many have already happened.
This is the least compelling of all three films adapted from Dan Brown novels. “The Da Vinci Code” was propped up by a more compelling plot and the acting chops of Ian McKellen and Audrey Tautou. “Angels and Demons” had an exciting story, memorable scenes, and tie-ins to Vatican secrets. While Inferno’s predecessors had lower disasters at stake, both had more compelling villains and moments that actually make the viewer care what happens to the characters.