Movie review: Howard and Hanks return to bring Dan Brown’s ‘Inferno’ to life
–In 2006, Tom Hanks and director Ron Howard teamed to bring the popular Dan Brown novel “The Da Vinci Code” to life. It was a movie that was somewhat tepidly received, and earned a boycott from religious groups. But most of the talking points were actually about Hanks’ haircut in the film.
Three years later, they brought another Brown novel — “Angels & Demons” — to the big screen. That film was reviewed more favorably but didn’t draw quite the same attention at the Box Office.
It’s been a decade since that first collaboration, but Hanks and Howard are back with a third installment of the adventures of Professor Robert Langdon. This time, in “Inferno,” he’s got to stop a virus from culling the world’s population before it’s too late.
“Inferno” finds Professor Langdon (Hanks) struggling to recall where he is an what he’s doing. He wakes up in the hospital unsure how he got there and what’s going on. But soon he discovers someone is after him, and it’s related to a copy of the painting of Dante’s version of hell that he has in his possession.
Langdon is joined by his young doctor, Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), as he tries to piece together his past few days and the clues needed to find the virus, which turns out to be the work of an eccentric billionaire, Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster), who believed the world was overcrowded. Zobrist hid the virus before killing himself, leaving only this puzzle behind.
Langdon races to restore his memories, figure out the clues and stay ahead of the groups hot on his trail, which include officials from the World Health Organization. He doesn’t know who to trust and all that’s left for him is to use his knowledge of history in a race against time to save humanity.
All of Brown’s novels that have been adapted center on clues in our historical past. This film is no different, save for the fact that it slides away from such a direct involvement with the Catholic Church. In that way, it’s avoided some of the criticisms and boycotts of his previous collaborations.
That’s not to say religion doesn’t play a role. As in all adventure stories of this type, churches and religious icons are part of the clues in this journey. But this is a much different kind of story than “The Da Vinci Code.” Yet the production and performance of Hanks in the lead role remains the same.
It’s been a decade since Hanks and Howard first collaborated to bring one of these stories to life, but they haven’t lost their touch. “Inferno” is squarely in the middle for me when ranking this trilogy. It’s not quite as fascinating as “Angels & Demons,” but it feels like a better film than “The Da Vinci Code.” The mystery is compelling, the journey is interesting and the film does a nice job of building in some character exploration.
Hanks is strong in the lead role. He’s got an affable every man quality that works here. The rest of the supporting cast works well, too. Jones is an in demand performer these days, and an Oscar nominee, who sinks into the complexity of her role, too. I also enjoyed the performance of Irrfan Khan, who plays a security consultant hired by Zobrist that has a role to play in this journey, too.
“Inferno” is an entertaining and engaging film, but it’s not a great film. It’s a perfect piece of popcorn entertainment and is put together with a deft hand by Howard. It’s not a great film, but it’s an enjoyable one — particularly for those who are fans of the genre or the Dan Brown novels.
“Inferno” has been rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for sequences of action and violence, disturbing images, some language, thematic elements and brief sensuality.
Three stars out of four.