Review: “Inferno”

2 out of 5 stars.

Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon novels aren’t particularly good, and neither were their film adaptations.  So when I say that “Inferno”—the third film based on the third novel in Brown’s series—is better than “Angels and Demons” and about on par with “The Da Vinci Code,” that’s not a compliment.

Ron Howard directed the previous two movies (by the way, the last one, “Angels and Demons,” came out way back in 2009), and he’s back for this installment, as is Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon, a professor and world-renowned symbolist.  The film opens with Langdon, an American, waking up with a concussion in a hospital room in Florence, Italy, with no memory of how he got there or what transpired over the last few days.  He is tended to by Dr. Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones); when an assassin (Ana Ularu) comes for Langdon at the hospital, she helps him back to her apartment, where they find a mini projector containing an image of Botticelli’s “Map of Hell” among his personal belongings. This sets them on the trail of Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster), a billionaire who advocated purging most of the world’s growing population in order to save the planet.

The problem with “Inferno,” and the other Dan Brown stories, for that matter, is that they try to make you believe you’re watching a smart thriller, when really much of the movie involves Hanks and Jones running from mysterious government agents.  The plot itself is almost insultingly simple, but it complicates itself by including too many silly twists, the big one toward the end being the most ridiculous of all in that it feels like it’s there for pure shock value.  “Inferno” is at least a bit more suspenseful than the previous films in the series as it begins with the protagonist—and therefore the audience—having no idea what’s happening, and then unraveling more about what is going on as his memories slowly return.  Still, even those revelations aren’t particularly exciting.

Langdon (Tom Hanks) and Brooks (Felicity Jones) carefully analyzing…something

Hanks (whose Langdon hairdo has infinitely improved over the last two films, thank goodness) and Jones do what they can with the material they’re given as does the rest of the cast, which includes Foster and a sadly underused Irrfan Khan as the CEO of a security company working for Zobrist.  But everything is just too convenient, like the fact that Langdon’s sidekick is a child prodigy who studied Dante and can keep up with his intellectual leaps every step of the way.

The gorgeous scenery as Langdon and Brooks trek across Europe is really the star of this movie.  “Inferno” is mindless entertainment in every sense of the phrase, but then again, so is Brown’s novel on which it is based (and as Brown isn’t an especially great writer, at least we don’t have to sit through his narration).  While many art history enthusiasts and conspiracy theorists could at least find something interesting about “The Da Vinci Code,” the straightforward and simple “Inferno” comes up short on both those fronts.

Runtime: 121 minutes. Rated PG-13.

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