FILM REVIEW: Inferno (12A) **
It's been 10 years since Tom Hanks squandered his Oscar-calibre talent as the ingenious hero of The Da Vinci Code.
The 2009 sequel, Angels & Demons, was hellish rather than heavenly and now leading man Hanks, director Ron Howard and screenwriter David Koepp reunite to translate Dan Brown’s pulpy page-turner Inferno, into a high-octane chase thriller.
It’s a fruitless exercise, neatly encapsulated in one throwaway scene when Hanks’s plucky symbologist recites facts about Dante’s epic poem Divine Comedy and 15th century Italian art from memory, and his female sidekick cuts short his academic waffle to suggest a simpler solution: ‘I use Google’.
Alas, brevity is not one of the film’s strong points – the two-hour running time feels sluggish and the script is muddled.
Inferno opens with crazed scientist Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster) taking a backwards dive from a bell tower in Florence, thereby escaping the clutches of security forces led by Christoph Bruder (Omar Sy).
Soon after, Harvard University professor Robert Langdon (Hanks) wakes in a hospital in the same city with a gunshot wound to the head and a fractured memory.
Kind medic Dr Sienna Brooks (Jones) tends to him and when bullets fly in the corridors, she helps Langdon escape to her nearby apartment.
A thumbprint-encoded vial in Langdon’s pocket reveals the first clue of a globe-trotting treasure hunt, involving Dante’s Inferno and a plague engineered by Zobrist to solve the overpopulation crisis in one bold stroke.
Working against them is Harry Sims (Irrfan Khan), head of a shadowy consortium, which billionaire Zobrist engaged to protect his interests.
Sims despatches a gun-toting assassin called Vayentha (Ana Ularu), who is dressed as a Carabinieri, to prevent the professor from unravelling the mystery: ‘Eliminate Langdon. Fail and you will be held accountable!’
Meanwhile, old flame Elizabeth Sinskey (Sidse Babett Knudsen), head of the World Health Organisation, is also on the fugitives’ trail.
Inferno goes through the motions as Langdon and Sienna uncover hidden messages in artworks and artefacts in their attempt to avert mankind’s darkest hour.
Hanks’ discombobulation, courtesy of his character’s head injury, is symptomatic of a messy, disjointed picture that trundles along a linear path, pausing for the occasional robust set piece.
Regrettably, this leaves Howard’s film in disarray.