Ron Howard evidently heard that his adaptation of author Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code moved like molasses, because he overcorrected somewhat with the follow-up, 2009’s Angels & Demons. He finally finds the sweet spot pace-wise with the belated third entry, Inferno, which races entertainingly along, even if it doesn’t exactly linger in your memory.
Tom Hanks again plays symbology professor Robert Langdon, who wakes up in a hospital in Italy with no recall of the last few days. After a nurse (Felicity Jones) helps him escape being assassinated, they embark on a frantic quest to find out what happened to him, and discover a link to the population-culling machinations of a billionaire geneticist (Ben Foster).
Like the National Treasure flicks, the film doubles as a history lesson, teaching us about Italian art and such. Fitting, as events here mostly transpire in Florence and Venice (of which Howard provides plenty of scenery) and Foster’s character is obsessed with Dante, to the point of naming the titular thingamajig after the man’s most infamous work.
Howard makes those lessons go down easy, too. Hanks and Jones dispense heaps of historical background with rapid-fire precision as they examine projected images or paintings and then, bang, zoom, they’re off. It helps that the plot has them on the run from both World Health Organization agents and a private security company’s assassins. Make haste or get wasted.
And veteran screenwriter David Koepp’s script does a great job playing with us as to who’s good and who’s bad and smoothly shifts the allegiances of some of the people chasing Hanks. This includes characters played by Sidse Babett Knudsen, Omar Sy and Indian actor Irrfan Khan. Only Ana Ularu, as an assassin, possesses straightforward motives.
As such, per Dan-Brown-movie usual, it’s plot-propelled, with the actors trying to be more than just explainers. Hanks still conveys Langdon’s smarts, Jones makes a solid enough partner and Foster a decent enough villain. Khan (The Lunchbox) proves the most interesting, playing a CEO-type whose fine-tailored suits and calm demeanor belie his sharp knife skills.
In terms of action, Howard imbues all the shooting and running around here with adequate urgency, even the finale, which involves the most potentially tedious of things: people flailing about in water. He’s better with the film’s surprising-for-a-Dan-Brown-movie element that is Robert Langdon being in l-o-v-e. That’s right. Robert Langdon burns for someone. – [DVD] [Blu-Ray]
DVD Release Date: 1/24/17