Bertrand Zobrist is the anti-Bill Gates. Rather than use his billions to improve people’s health around the globe, Zobrist plans to unleash a plague to reduce the world’s population. Inferno, based on a Dan Brown novel, brings back Harvard professor, Robert Langdon, who must thwart Zobrist’s plot. But there’s a problem: Langdon (Tom Hanks) wakes up in a Florence hospital with no memory of how he got there. His physician, Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), tells him he sustained a head injury after being grazed by a bullet. Before she can explain further, an Italian police officer, Vayentha (Ana Ularu), shows up, shoots another doctor and begins shooting at Langdon. He and Sienna escape to her apartment where they try to figure out why someone wants Langdon dead.
Langdon (Tom Hanks) and Sienna (Felicity Jones) study the Map Of Hell.
The first clue is a small cylinder made out of bone that Langdon finds in his pocket. The object is actually a projector that contains one image: Botticelli’s Map of Hell based on Dante’s Inferno. The illustration has been tweaked, adding the words: “The truth can be glimpsed only through the eyes of death.” Once again Brown has fashioned a mystery that involves a scavenger hunt. For the next 107 minutes, Robert and Sienna will take us on a whirlwind tour of Florence’s artistic treasures as they seek to discover where Zobrist has hidden the virus.
Ignazio (Gábor Urmai) and Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) inspect Dante’s Death Mask.
“The eyes of death” turns out to be the death mask of Dante. Unfortunately, the mask is missing. Surveillance footage shows Langdon, along with his friend, Ignazio Busoni (Gábor Urmai), stealing the mask, even though Langdon has no memory of being the thief.
Zobrist (Ben Foster) presents his over population theory.
Zobrist (Ben Foster) committed suicide, but his followers have vowed to carry out his wishes. Besides Langdon, there are others out to find the virus, including officials from the World Health Organization and someone who hopes to sell the virus to the highest bidder. Langdon knows he met with someone in Cambridge to discuss Zobrist, but he can’t remember if it was his friend Elizabeth Sinskey (Sidse Babett Knudsen), or Omar Sy (Christoph Bouchard). Without knowing whom to trust, Langdon is forced to rely only on Sienna. They manage to keep two steps ahead of their pursuers, until they are separated and Langdon is apprehended. An unlikely ally comes to his aid and helps to fill in the blanks in Langdon’s memory.
Sinskey (Sidse Babett Knudsen) and Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) analyze Dante’s text.
Brown’s books have never been hailed as literary masterpieces. (In one review, his prose was described as “dreadful.”) Ron Howard, who also directed the film adaptations of The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demon, understands that fans love Brown’s books not because of the language, but because the plots are a thrill ride. The film’s visual effects, recreating Langdon’s dreams of being caught up in Dante’s Inferno, are appropriately gruesome.
Langdon (Tom Hanks) and Sienna (Felicity Jones) make their way through St. Marks Square in Venice.
Those scenes of hell are offset by the visual beauty of Florence and Venice. Besides the aerial shots over these two glorious cities, we spend time on the ground, glimpsing Florence’s Boboli Gardens, the Palazzo Vecchio, and the Baptistry, while also enjoying a stroll around Venice’s Piazza San Marco and a boat ride down the Grand Canal. (You may want to book a trip on your iPhone as you leave the theater.)
Hanks is having a banner year playing heroes: Sully, the pilot responsible for “The Miracle on the Hudson,” and Langdon, a low key academic who keeps finding himself in dangerous situations. In Inferno, Hanks not only saves the planet, he manages to save the film, too.
Inferno opens nationwide October 28, 2016.
Photos by Jonathan Prime courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment.
Top photo: Langdon (Tom Hanks) and Sienna (Felicity Jones) on the balcony of St. Marks Basilica.