Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) wakes in an Italian hospital unaware of the previous 48 hours or how he got there. When an assassin tries to kill him, he teams up with Dr. Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones) and together they must race across Europe against the clock to foil a deadly global plot.
Ron Howard needs a hit. His first Dan Brown adaptation starring Tom Hanks as Professor Robert Langdon, The Da Vinci Code (2006), grossed a sizeable $758 million worldwide, quickly followed by the second, Angels and Demons (2009) which brought in a non-too embarrassing $485 million. Since then, however, his films have pretty much tanked, even when they were very good (2013’s Rush didn’t even trouble the $100 million mark). So it comes as no surprise to find him behind the camera for the third Langdon adventure. A shame, then, that it is complete and utter piffle from start to finish.
The Da Vinci Code book captured readers imaginations like few others, propelling author Dan Brown to the top of the bestseller lists and ensuring the fast-track for a film adaptation. With Howard overseeing things and the perfect casting of Hanks as the cerebral hero, it proved to be an ok if rather pedestrian mystery thriller. Sequel Angels and Demons had a similar, religious setting but included the silly addition of some antimatter as a weapon. But Inferno takes what made these two films work on a basic level and jettisons it all, and right from the start at that. We may be back in Italy, and there’s another (the third) gorgeous brunette on hand to accompany Langdon, but good Lord it’s dull.
Langdon wakes in a Florence hospital, wounded and with a serious headache, completely unaware as to how he got there or the events of the previous 48 hours. Stalked by an assassin, he’s fortunate enough to have a polymath genius for a nurse who wants to tag along and help him. We’re used to Langdon putting clues together, being a man of words and intelligence, but now he’s reduced to being useless and utterly inept, a man who can’t even remember what the word ‘tea’ is.
The plot is pretty basic – mad billionaire wants to kill half the world’s population using a virus – but proceeds to twist and turn in complicated knots, then to feed in and of itself, until the viewer starts to feel, and frown, as confused as Langdon himself. What we end up with is a bargain basement James Bond film, without the fun, the flair, the action or the class. In previous outings, Langdon has been saved from certain death by luck, fate and even pigeons but here he’s even more passive, being led through the story by Jones’ Sienna Brooks like a lost child.
Zobrist’s plan is nonsensical and utterly unthreatening; any feeling that these two are out to literally save (half) the world just doesn’t materialise. The reveal of a bad guy way past the halfway mark makes Langdon just look monumentally stupid, and without any religious underpinnings at all, the story lacks gravitas. The clues Langdon follows were set the previous week by the boring and dull Zobrist (Ben Foster) and haven’t been hiding in plain site for millennia as in the previous two films. To be perfectly honest, our badly-toupeed Professor may as well be playing a game of Pokémon Go for all the tension this particular chase leads itself to.
Irrfan Khan (Jurassic World, Life of Pi) provides some much-needed moments of humour, and Felicity Jones does much more with the poorly written Sienna than is really necessary (and bodes well for rebel Jyn Erso in December’s Rogue One) but there’s little to recommend. And when a production has a billionaire put a lethal, world-killing virus in a simple Ziplock freezer bag, you know no one really bothered to try their best.