Dan Brown’s pulp thrillers might make for a good read on a long haul flight, but as movies they’re something of an endurance test. The Da Vinci Code was like listening to the audiobook as read by Tom Hanks and Ian McKellen, and Angels & Demons was strangely inert for a film about an attempt to destroy the Vatican with antimatter.
Skipping the third book featuring cryptologist Robert Langdon, The Lost Symbol, Ron Howard proceeds directly to Brown’s most recent bestseller, Inferno, and finally delivers the kind of propulsive thriller the material demands. It’s easily the best film of the three (which might sound like faint praise given the competition).
Inferno finds Langdon (Hanks) awakening in a hospital bed with a nasty head wound, a case of temporary amnesia, and nightmarish visions of hell on Earth. Following an assassination attempt by a Terminator-like lady cop, Langdon flees with British doctor Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones) in tow, and must piece together the cryptic clues that link Dante’s famous depiction of Hell with a deadly pathogen designed by a mad billionaire to cull the world’s population by half.
It’s the usual race across Europe, from one art gallery, museum and basilica to the next, with the exposition delivered on the run. Things get increasingly more preposterous and some of the plot twists are glaringly obvious, but the cracking pace, some welcome humour, and Hanks’ earnest performance as the thinking man’s Indiana Jones holds it all together… just. If anyone can save the world it’s Langdon, even if he has lost his memory; the guy can still recognise a Florentine spire from his hospital window, even if he can’t remember what coffee is.
In cinemas: October 13, 2016
Starring: Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Ben Foster
Directed by: Ron Howard