Sometimes even Tom Hanks isn’t quite enough. The actor, adored by anybody with a soul, has illuminated the screen numerous times across his career, and has turned even the most mediocre of productions into worthwhile endeavours. With the Robert Langdon saga, however, he’s struggled to have quite the same impact, and while impressing (again) in the third (and hopefully) final entry into the franchise, again the generic nature of this thriller and contrived execution of the protagonist’s problem-solving is jarring to the viewer, unable to subvert the tropes of the genre at hand.
Langdon awakes in Florence with amnesia, with no recollection of how he got there, or how his head wound was inflicted. Doctor Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones) appears to be his only ally, and when the professor finds himself the target of a gun-wielding assassin, the pair escape the building and return to the doctor’s abode to make sense of this murky situation. Without his memory, however, Langdon is not offering much help, but when he discovers a gadget in his pocket he does what he does best – he deciphers the message, he solves puzzles and cracks clues, which leads him to the recently deceased Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster), who orchestrated a plan to unleash a deadly global virus after his death – a virus that Langdon and Brooks are now vying desperately to prevent.
Dan Brown’s series of novels – which have spawned the two cinematic productions The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons – now has a third feature, and where Inferno differs to what preceded it – and beneficially so – is to thrive in the flaws of the hero. Langdon has always represented something of a mastermind, and we dutifully follow his lead; but with amnesia he loses that authority he otherwise commands, and the film is all the better for it. We gain a vital sense of volatility and vulnerability; he becomes fallible and it creates an intensity, as Hanks goes full on Jason Bourne. Naturally, Hanks shines in the leading role, with a comfortability about his demeanour that is so reassuring. Jones matches her co-star at every turn, while other supporting roles fall into the laps of Sidse Babett Knudsen, Omar Sy and Irrfan Khan, which helps matter immeasurably.
But it’s not enough to transcend Inferno above exceptions, as Ron Howard – who has helmed all three films – very much places this film in the same universe. So, if you’re a fan of the franchise, chances are, after seeing this you’ll remain one. But if not, it’s rather unlikely Inferno will convert you – as it’s a perfectly accomplished, if forgettable slice of contemporary cinema.