Many years ago our Editor worked as a reporter on a local rag and was writing up a piece about a fire that had engulfed a huge night club and he managed to press gang a witness into giving their account of what had happened. ‘To my surprise, ’said the witness, ’One hundred storeys high, People getting loose y’all, getting down on the roof, Folks are screaming, out of control. It was so entertaining when the boogie started to explode. I heard somebody say, burn baby burn, disco inferno, Burn baby burn, burn that mother down!’ He was quickly fired from that job (‘Rubbish! I left to pursue other interests’ – Ed). But the lyrics from a disposable disco ditty are in keeping with equally disposable books of author Dan Brown which has included such lines of prose as, ‘The big man lifted the red cup’.
Tom Hanks is back as Robert Langdon, top puzzle solver, for the third time in the role and wakes up in hospital with a head injury suffering from hellish visions of a zombie apocalypse. With Felicity Jones as Dr Sienna Brooks tending to him he tries to work how he got his injuries and of course it’s not long before he finds himself once again teamed up with an attractive female fleeing for his life and on the run with Dr Brooks. Like nearly all of Dan Brown’s novels it centres around works of art and literature and in this case it’s the classic Inferno by Dante and his portrayal of hell which has been with us for the past 700 years or so. What Langdon finds is a plot by a billionaire microbiologist Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster) to cure the world of overpopulation by decimating it by unleashing a lethal virus on the world. Like the best villains there is a morally grey argument that some may find themselves sympathising with and Zobrist presents it in a persuasive style but inevitably you know it will never happen and with Langdon being pursued by a shady organisation as well as government agents too who are all after the location of the virus the whole film comes to a climax in a water logged underground crypt.
In many ways this pays like the ‘National Treasure’ films from a few years ago with a far more considered Tom Hanks replacing a maniacally OTT Nicholas Cage and is given the sheen of being highbrow with its use of classic works of art and its Bond like international globe trotting locations setting scenes in places of architectural beauty. It’s easy to see the attraction of the novels and the plots are intriguing in their use of art as the story unfolds and the first half is much like The Da Vinci code and Demons & Angels but like those also it gets to a point where the plot becomes, almost in the blink of an eye, ludicrous and this one features a plot twist which is not wholly credible. Which is a shame because with director Ron Howard doing a solid job and Tom Hanks (in his second of three films this year) as dependable as ever it’s David Koepp, one of Hollywood’s top screenwriters, who wrestles with Dan Brown’s source novel and ultimately turns the airport novel into a decent enough but ultimately forgettable romp. The lines are of variable quality too with Hanks at one point helping give Jones hand getting up a wall saying, ’I’ve got your foot’ because hey! you know what? he has her foot. In fact the best part of the script is scene set in Italy and a throwaway line by one character who is covering up a murder and says, ‘Not my best work but it’ll do for the Italian police!’ – perhaps a sly dig at the botched investigation into the murder of Meredith Kercher.
With 2006’s ‘The Da Vinci Code’ catching the zeitgeist so well at the time and it’s now seven years since ‘Angels and Demons’ there is a sense that is just a little too late now to recapture that moment as the novelty starts to wear off. This is proficiently made but ultimately not one that will stick around in the memory for too long.
Here’s the trailer: