Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) is a clever guy. Couple that with the assault related visions he’s now having, and he’s borderline superhero at this stage. Inferno does attempt to bring his smarts down a notch with occasionally noted amnesia, but in truth it only truly comes into play once or twice, and is pretty selective. Whilst he can’t remember what a cup of coffee is, he’s still perfectly capable of mansplaining his way through historical fluff.
And mansplain he does. Each clue in his latest mystery (following on from The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons) is spelt out to the audience via Langdon, as he essentially shares his every thought, whether on his newly acquired head bump, his visions, or Dante’s interpretation of hell. So. Much. Exposition. Clearly any effort at subtlety wasn’t on the table for writer David Koepp when putting pen to paper for the script, neither for Dan Brown when writing the book that the film is based upon.
Langdon’s latest partner in mystery unravelling, Sienna (Felicity Jones), is not far off his know-it-all level either. The pair meet in a Florence hospital, with Sienna nursing Langdon, who has no recollection of how he ended up in Italy, or why he has a painful gash on his head. But what he does discover quickly is that there are people out to find him, and discover a secret he holds the key to. The location of a pathogen which Ben Foster’s misguided scientist Zobrist wants to unleash upon humanity, in a bid to solve the Earth’s overpopulation. As you do.
Cue Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones doing a lot of running around between art galleries and famous buildings whilst looking particularly serious. Also prepare for more twists than the film itself can keep up with. It even manages to completely lose a character (Gábor Urmai’s Ignazio), who it sets up Langdon as having been with only hours before where we pick up. Luckily, as essentially just a plot device, he’s barely missed. Perhaps he was cut out with the hope that no one would notice. Or perhaps it’s poor writing. Even more of a head-scratcher than the case of the missing Ignazio however is the biggest twist of them all at around the midway mark, which simply doesn’t feel earned. I like a good twist as much as the next person, but not if it’s just for the sake of it, and not when it leads to one of the dumbest endings imaginable. It’s the point where any goodwill it was shuffling by on up until then starts to wear a bit thin.
It’s not got the religious narrative that made The Da Vinci Code a cultural phenomenon. Nor the scale and style of Angels & Demons. Yet it does have their zippy quality, drive, and sense of adventure. It’s the lesser of the trio of films by a stretch, and none of them are anywhere near director Ron Howard’s best efforts, but it does have its charms, in the first half at least.
Though it’s been getting a battering critically, it’s not as terrible as some would have you believe. But no, it’s not very good either.
Rating (out of 5):