The first rule of chases:
When being pursued through city streets by three burly fellows radiating evil intent, the last thing you want to do is leave the street and climb, climb, climb way up to the tippy top of a very tall tower. Because that will indeed be the last thing you do. Hey kids, it’s Humpty Dumpty time.
Sad! And gooey.
A character breaks this cardinal rule at the beginning of “Inferno,” and it’s basically all down to the pavement from there.
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Ron Howard and Tom Hanks return for a third bite of the Dan Brown apple, following up on their collaborative adaptations of Brown’s best-selling “The Da Vinci Code” and “Angels & Demons” with the further adventures of Brown’s iconic protagonist Robert Langdon, expert in religiously based arcana.
Starting with a chase, “Inferno” proceeds at a hyperfrantic pace as Langdon and a helpful young woman doctor played by Felicity Jones are hunted hither and thither through the scenic streets and historic (and scenic) buildings of of Florence and Venice by a lady assassin disguised as a cop, by real cops, by members of the World Health Organization, by government security types and assorted thugs, mugs and other shady sorts.
The chase, chase, chase pace is tiring, not least because it’s not clear who many of these people are and what agendas they’re following. Mixed-up confusion is the result, and apparently Howard and screenwriter David Koepp realized this because at several points late in the picture Howard hits the pause button to allow characters to deliver long expository speeches cluing Langdon in as to who’s who and what’s what.
Langdon is called on to use his vast knowledge of symbols to interpret telltales tied to Dante’s “Inferno” that will, he hopes, allow him to thwart a plot by a megalomaniacal tycoon (Ben Foster) to unleash a plague that will depopulate the world because, you know, overpopulation is bad. Time, the mogul maintains, to thin the herd.
Langdon’s efforts are complicated by the fact he’s suffering from that old thriller-movie standby: amnesia.
Really? Amnesia? These days that plot device only really works for Jason Bourne. Langdon’s amnesia is of a highly selective sort. He can’t recall the word for coffee, but does remember his gmail address and his password. Oh, and he also remembers all manner of esoteric details of Dante-related scholarship, the better to divine the significance of clues scattered like breadcrumbs throughout the movie.
Langdon’s amnesia afflicts him with terrible headaches and visions of hellish Dante-derived horrors, full of blood and disfigurement. And guess what? Those headaches are contagious. The amnesia scenes’ blurry imagery and jolt-cut editing may make the viewer wish to lie down in a dark room with a cold cloth on fevered forehead.
Somebody, get me an aspirin. Better make that two.
☆☆ 1/2 out of 5
Cast: Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Irrfan Khan, Omar Sy, Ben Foster.
Director: Ron Howard.
Running time: 2:01.
Rated: PG-13, for sequences of action and violence, disturbing images, some language, thematic elements and brief sensuality.