When Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code was published in 2003, it was an immediate sensation, spending over two-and-a-half years on the New York Times best-seller list. That fervor had barely died down when the movie adaptation starring Tom Hanks came out in 2006, ultimately earning a huge $750 million at the box office worldwide.
But 2006, and even 2009, when the sequel Angels and Demons was released, was a long time ago, and it’s difficult to see anyone clamoring for another Robert Langdon story, even with Hanks bringing his usual charm. Inferno finds Langdon suffering from amnesia after being attacked in Florence, Italy. He can’t remember what he’s doing in Florence, much less why anyone would go after him.
When an assassin comes to the hospital to finish the job, ER doctor Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones) helps Langdon escape. A worldly Brit, Brooks soon proves useful in helping Langdon decipher clues about his recent activities, most of which, naturally, are hidden in artworks around the city. The story also involves a plot by a billionaire (Ben Foster) to use a virus to eradicate half the world’s population, a scary idea that never really gains traction.
When it comes to a Dan Brown story, there should be no illusions about everything adding up. But even by that standard, Inferno doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, as it piles on twist after twist, to the point where it’s almost impossible to tell who’s a good guy and who’s a bad guy.
Director Ron Howard and writer David Koepp do a decent job of juggling all the complicated pieces, but they can only hold the balls in the air for so long. A handful of action set pieces are suitably thrilling, but with your head swimming from the complex storyline, it’s hard to get the full enjoyment out of them.
The actors, for their part, do an effective job at keeping the story moving. It’s far from his strongest role, but Hanks makes Langdon easy to root for, which is all you really need. Jones mostly seems to react to Hanks, neutering Brooks’ impact to a degree. She’s overshadowed by a strong performance by Sidse Babett Knudsen, playing a World Health Organization officer, as well as Omar Sy, a man with shifting loyalties.
For Inferno to fully succeed, its puzzles needed to be a lot more interesting or the action much more taut. As it stands, it’s merely a serviceable film that will kill two hours and leave your mind almost as quickly.