Inferno, directed by Ron Howard, the third film based on the Dan Brown novels, once again relies on the credibility of its leading man, Tom Hanks, to make up for its occasionally puzzling and frankly preposterous plot. It’s a handsomely mounted film with intriguing twists, but even Hanks probably can’t help rolling his eyes at all the script contrivances.
When a tech billionaire (Ben Foster) obsessed with over-population kills himself after creating a plague to drastically reduce humanity’s numbers, someone’s got to find the virus and save the world. Our trusted Harvard professor and internationally renowned symbologist Dr Robert Langdon (Hanks) is pretty beat, having survived a wound to his head and currently suffering from temporary amnesia. Still, with some help from a pretty English doctor (Felicity Jones), Langdon dashes around Florence, Venice, and Istanbul, using clues from Dante’s epic poem and various works of sixteenth century art to decipher the location of the deadly virus, while simultaneously being pursued by all manner of suspicious elements.
This is essentially pitched as the brainy version of a James Bond or Jason Bourne film, but to be fair, Inferno is more accessible and packs more thrills than The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons. A clutch of wrong choices, however, derails the film’s breathless pace, particularly a forced romantic track between Langdon and a World Health Organisation director (Sidse Babett Knudsen).
Langdon himself emerges an increasingly stiff protagonist, although Hanks’ everyman charm rescues the character from sinking into an abyss of complete dullness, particularly in a scenario where he doesn’t have access to his most valuable weapon: his fast-thinking brain, which is compromised from the amnesia and the disturbing visions he’s consumed by. Thank god for Irrfan Khan though. The Lunchbox star, cast as the head of a shady consulting group, is the only one here who appears to be having any fun at all, delivering cheeky lines with a straight face and generally disrupting everyone’s best laid plans. Irrfan stands out from among a sizeable ensemble cast, and is one of the best things in this average film.
There’s a lot of running around ancient historic landmarks and the illusion of urgency. But the big problem with Inferno is that it never really creates a palpable sense of danger despite all the chases and gunshots. You know Langdon will crack the mystery in time, and you know everything will turn out just fine. But it never keeps you at the edge of your seat, worried that he’s cutting it too close.
I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for Inferno. It unfolds at a crisp two hours, and despite its shortcomings there’s enough to enjoy. You might want to give it a chance.