Inferno: Robert Langdon Is Back! (Yawn!)

Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones star in Columbia PIctures' "Inferno."
Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones star in Columbia PIctures’ “Inferno.”

Ron Howard’s adaptation of Dan Brown’s Inferno may be the one that kills the franchise.

Inferno is more of the same with a crazy weird puzzle that must be solved to prevent a dead biochemist’s plan to kill off half the world’s population (to save it) from coming to fruition. This must be done by a half-dead Robert Langdon who is recovering from a head trauma and the doctor who helps him.

Inferno opens with a man (Ben foster) running from a group of pursuers (headed by a black man played by Omar Sy) – then, when cornered, letting himself fall off a very tall church building in Rome. With the expected result.

Cut to Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) waking up in a hospital bed dazed and confused. Dr. Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones’ Rogue One) is checking him over when gunfire erupts in the hall outside – a female police officer is shooting anyone who sees her. Brooks locks the door to Langdon’s room and the two flee through another door (which she also locks behind them.

Omar Sy in Columbia Pictures' "Inferno," starring Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones.
Omar Sy in Columbia Pictures’ “Inferno,” starring Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones.

As they leave the building, Langdon has flashes that are too weird to be memories – could they be visions?

At Brooks’ apartment, she has him change into a suit belonging to her boyfriend. She calls the American Embassy for help, but it’s too late – the pair have been found by the female cop. There are chases.

Somewhere along the way, the pair find a Faraday pointer with a remixed copy of a painting of Dante’s Inferno – with some levels rearranged and an anagram not so deftly inserted via letters hidden in figures in the different levels.

Before you know it, there’s a host of folks chasing the two – one group from the World Health Organization (led by Sidse Babett Knudsen’s Elizabeth Sinskey), the police and an unnamed security firm (headed by Irrfan Khan’s Harry Sims) catering to the very rich and secretive.

Long story short, the man we saw leap to his death was Bertrand Zobrist – a man who believed that the planet was 11:59 and humanity would kill itself off via overpopulation unless half the current population was removed. He created a bio-weapon to do just that – and there’s less than 48 hours to prevent it from going off.

Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones star in Columbia PIctures' "Inferno."
Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones star in Columbia PIctures’ “Inferno.”

Written by David Koepp and directed by Ron Howard, Inferno is mostly chases and scenery (gorgeous Italian and Turkish buildings – inside and out) with brief pauses for Langdon to solve another puzzle.

The action is choppy, the substance even less than the first two (admittedly clunky fun) Langdon adventures, and the twists and turns mostly predictable. The direction and editing are surprisingly unfocused for a big budget movie (though the budget was considerably smaller than the first two films) – and Hanks gives one of his very few weak performances. It doesn’t help that Jones, Sy, Khan and Knudsen’s characters aren’t even two dimensional – and that they can’t overcome that.

As for the writing, Koepp never really gives us anything of substance to make us care for any of the characters – rendering the mostly predictable twists free of impact. And Howard doesn’t do anything that helps.

Sure, there’s an explanation for how a slightly concussed Langdon could suddenly be so spry, but it comes with more than a whiff of ‘how do I write myself of this messy corner’ to it. It’s just too convenient – as is a great deal of the rest of the film.

Inferno is the only one the three Langdon adventures that I haven’t read and the film makes me glas=d I never tried. Also, my drink was gone with over half an hour to go. So there’s that.

Final Grade: D+