Tom Hanks battles hell and high water in Dan Brown’s latest.


The spotless mind: Tom Hanks


With the world’s population approaching eight billion, mankind has become the cancer of its own planet. And with our resources close to depletion, what are we to do? Well, Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster) has a plan. In order to preserve our species, a healthy cull is in order. And how best to filter out half of the population than through the construct of a pandemic?


This was (roughly) the premise of Dan Brown’s 2013 bestseller into which, once again, he has placed his protagonist Robert Langdon, professor of religious iconology and symbology. Here, Langdon (Tom Hanks) wakes up with amnesia in a hospital in Florence, plagued by images of hell. Of course, amnesia is an excellent narrative devise, although this year it has already been appropriated by a fish (in Finding Dory). And by Jason Bourne. Nevertheless, Langdon has only a case of “mild retrograde amnesia” which means that, conveniently, his memory should return within a couple of days. Meanwhile, he’s trying to work out what he’s doing in Florence and why he’s got a bullet wound in his head. More worrying are his visions of the Apocalypse, images not far removed from the gruesome scenes depicted in Botticelli's ‘Map of Hell,’ itself inspired by Dante’s Inferno. However, he’s in the capable hands of the English doctor Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), who happens, by sheer coincidence, to be a fan of both Langdon and Dante. And while the professor is taking this all in, a female carabiniere arrives at the hospital and starts shooting at him and Sienna, killing another doctor in the process…


Dan Brown is in the business of producing page-turners (by the truckload) and Ron Howard’s adaptation of his novel starts spinning the pages from the get-go. It’s an awesome opener and Howard proves no slouch when it comes to cinematic suspense. And as Langdon and Sienna discover that they are being pursued by the police, shady government officials, corporate assassins and even agents of the World Health Organisation, the film plunges head first into rollercoaster mode. There are also the seductive locations of Florence, Venice and Istanbul and a thought-provoking thesis underpinning the whole thing. While fans of history, art, symbology and geophysical theory will no doubt be enthralled, the film is perhaps too much of a good thing. As Langdon’s clouds of confusion gradually disperse, we are left with a raft of characters of such layered motivation that the whole thing descends into farce. Less can often prove to be more. And for the film to veer from Dan Brown’s ingenious conclusion (no spoilers here) seems to be a choice that favours dramatic effect over intellectual resolution, thus reducing Inferno to a much more mundane animal.




Cast: Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Omar Sy, Irrfan Khan, Ben Foster, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Ana Ularu, Xavier Laurent, Paul Ritter.


Dir Ron Howard, Pro Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, Screenplay David Koepp, Ph Salvatore Totino, Pro Des Peter Wenham, Ed Dan Hanley and Tom Elkins, Music Hans Zimmer, Costumes Julian Day.


Imagine Entertainment/LStar Capital-Sony Pictures.

121 mins. USA/Japan/Turkey/Hungary. 2016. Rel: 14 October 2016. Cert. 12A.