When The Da Vinci Code first made its way into theaters back in 2006, it was much talked about. Author Dan Brown had written a book that introduced a fictional idea (a conspiracy, really) that quickly found its way to the masses. Many sought out the book and watched the follow-up film, Angels and Demons. But if Brown’s books have taught me anything, it’s that he is a master at repetition, and the conspiracy stories that he weaves have begun to blur together. Perhaps it’s the overuse of the series’ central character who has, in his own way, become kind of like the James Bond of academia. Ron Howard directs Inferno, the third film to star Tom Hanks as a cryptographer and historian who traipses across Europe solving mysteries. The film is nonsensical, often ridiculous and, with no proper character development to help ground it, ultimately feels weightless.
Renowned cryptographer and professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) wakes up in a hospital in Florence, Italy, with absolutely no memory as to how he got there. There, he meets Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), a young doctor tending to his head wound. But Langdon doesn’t have time to rest and properly regain his memories before he and Sienna are on the run from a woman intent on killing them both. Langdon quickly discovers that he’s in possession of a Faraday pointer with a map of Dante’s Inferno and, of course, a code that needs to be solved. On the clock and running out of time, Langdon and Sienna must crack the code before a worldwide virus is unleashed, one that threatens to annihilate most of the world’s population.
Ten years and three movies later, Inferno is the weakest of the series, which is saying something. Sometimes, there can be nothing more exhilarating than watching two seemingly normal people (and by normal, I mean they’re not gun-toting agents or assassins) try and save the world from imminent danger. This trope can be fun; it can be adventurous and engrossing. But Inferno would rather be formulaic and forgettable. Its attempts to be enthralling and enriched with culture and history fail; it winds up being dull and lacking in every aspect. Although it boasts a wonderful cast—which includes Omar Sy, Ben Foster, Sidse Babett Knudsen and Irrfan Khan—the dialogue doesn’t help evolve the story or the characters. Writer David Koepp (Jurassic Park, Mission: Impossible) and Howard unfortunately don’t add anything interesting to the film that might have set it apart.
Inferno isn’t fun like National Treasure, nor does it have any kind of appeal. The film is so busy trying to weave together a good mystery and philosophical arguments that it ignores everything else like pacing, a tightly-woven plot and some good old-fashioned character development. The plot is near ridiculous and, although the film comes out of the gate sprinting, the pacing immediately slows down. To add insult to injury, the twist near the end of the film comes out of left field and feels completely tacked on and unnecessary. Inferno isn’t good, and there’s no spark of energy in Howard’s directing. Perhaps it’s high time to stop adapting Brown’s novels and simply leave well enough alone.