14/10/2016 | Jake Richardson
The latest adaptation of one of Dan Brown’s novels reunites star Tom Hanks and director Ron Howard, but falls closer to Angels and Demons than Da Vinci Code on the spectrum.
Da Vinci Code captured the zeitgeist surrounding Brown’s novels in 2006, and for all it’s faults was a unique adventure that was undoubtedly fun. The largely joyless sequel, Angels and Demons, failed to reignite the same interest or acclaim. While this third instalment lands somewhere in the middle.
Our eponymous hero, Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), wakes up in a Florentine hospital with a head wound. He has mild amnesia and can’t clearly remember the past 48 hours. At the same time, he is plagued with hallucinations of people burning, ravaged with disease, or with their heads twisted around backwards on their necks. When a police woman starts shooting at him, he and his hospital attendant Dr. Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones) go on the run. As Langdon struggles to remember why he is in Florence, and why he has a map of Botticelli’s painting of Dante’s Inferno in his pocket, Sienna and Robert must flee from a series of different shady organisations who are pursuing them.
Tom Hanks is always a joy to watch as Robert Langdon. He could play this character in his sleep. Hanks perfectly plays the fear and vulnerability of Langdon when his greatest tool, his mind, is compromised. While Felicity Jones is just fine as Sienna Brooks, scenes with Hanks (particularly the one in her apartment) jar because of the difference in acting styles. The effort Jones puts in stands in stark contrast to the ease with which Hanks plays Langdon, and leads to a struggle to suspend disbelief.
The supporting cast is largely good, with Irrfan Khan and Ben Foster both
providing refreshing enjoyment. To see them on screen is to wish they had bigger roles. Cinematographer Salvatore Totino shoots the film beautifully. As a tourism advertisement for Florence, Venice or Istanbul, this movie succeeds. You’ll find yourself wishing it was you running through the Boboli Gardens, or in the Basilica Cistern.
The real issues come down to the script. Screenwriter David Koepp adds a romantic sub-plot between Langdon and a female W.H.O. operative that wasn’t in the novel, and radically changes the ending. This is a shame, because the ending was one of the best bits of the book; a morally complicated question that lead the reader to be (a) surprised and (b) introspective. The ending of Ron Howard’s film, however, is indistinguishable from a million other action movie endings, as the hero stops a deadly MacGuffin seconds before it could be used.
Ron Howard’s Inferno is overly long (2 hours 1 minute run time), and it feels unjustified when watching, say, an airplane scene of Langdon and his old Cambridge-love reminiscing on their past lives, or watching Langdon choke a terrorist out in a fist-fight over a deadly virus. Da Vinci Code was so fun because it was refreshing and somewhat intelligent. It showed us that our hero didn’t have to punch his way out of everything, and proved that audiences wanted to see that. By the end of this instalment, you will be wishing they had stuck to that idea of Robert Langdon, because the fist-fighting action-man Langdon is as unsatisfying as they come.
Hanks, as always, inhabits Langdon to perfection, but scripting and directorial choices make you wish they had stuck more to the novel, as imperfect as it was.