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‘Inferno’ burns brighter thanks to Hanks

By Jonathan Shuping

November 1, 2016

An all-time classic action-adventure tale like Raiders of the Lost Ark is as satisfying as a steak dinner. Others, like the Harry Potter or Pirates of the Caribbean movies, are gratifying but in a bucket-of-popcorn sort of way. Inferno fits into the latter category.

I read Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons novels before seeing the films and was fairly disappointed in both adaptations. However, I had not read Inferno, which is perhaps why I enjoyed it the most of the three.

This time around, Harvard professor Robert Langdon awakens in an Italian hospital with amnesia accompanied by some pretty horrific visions of streets filled with fire and blood, real hell-on-earth type stuff. He figures out soon enough that charismatic billionaire Bertrand Zobrist plans to unleash a deadly virus in an effort to help Mother Earth with her overpopulation problem though, thankfully, he has left a trail of clues leading to the virus location. As always, Langdon snags the nearest European brunette beauty, this time Dr. Sienna Brooks, and away they go.

ROBERT LANGDON (Tom Hanks) and SIENNA (Felicity Jones) in Columbia Pictures' INFERNO.
Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) and Dr. Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones) courtesy of Columbia Pictures

As my colleague Dan Cava aptly noted last week in his review of the latest Jack Reacher installment, it’s Tom Cruise’s performance that elevates a ho-hum story to one that’s worth seeing. Likewise, Inferno isn’t terribly electrifying or original but it is made entertainingly enjoyable by another world-famous mega-Tom.

Hanks plays Langdon as a kind of 21st-century Indiana Jones (minus the whip and fedora and about 500 cool-points), resourcefully eluding bad guys while in search of hidden artifacts that will effectively save the world. He’s got such incredible all-around ability, with exceptional comedic timing and is just so likable and genuine that he can deliver even the most ridiculous lines from David Koepp’s script in a way that nudges them from laughable to almost-believable. Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything) as Sienna Brooks thrives alongside Hanks in a spirited and witty turn and the always fiery Ben Foster (Hell or High Water) manages to be both demented and compelling in a limited role as the virus-wielding villain Bertrand Zobrist.

As Langdon and Sienna trot from Florence to Venice to Istanbul, there’s no mysterious secret society like the Illuminati or Opus Dei lurking in the shadows, but there are multiple groups with varying motives in hot pursuit of Langdon and/or the virus. Local authorities, government agencies, and evil assassins all seek to subvert Langdon’s quest, allowing director Ron Howard several fun action sequences including a game of cat and mouse through the hidden passages of the Palazzo Vecchio and a sweet high-speed helicopter drone chase in the Boboli Gardens.

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Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Despite the overall absurdity of the premise, Inferno is still an engaging experience thanks to the first-rate cast, reliable direction from Howard, and Koepp’s clever-enough script (although to make out the expository dialogue on the heavily-accented tongues of Irrfan Khan and Omar Sy). So if you’re not really looking for a soul-nourishing entrée and a savory snack will do, then you will not be displeased by the all new extra buttery Inferno.

Star Rating: 3 out of 5

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