Professor Langdon’s back! This time he’s in Florence, although thanks to a bullet-wound in his head he has no idea why he’s there or what he’s been doing for the last couple of days. So begins Inferno, the third cinematic adventure (based on the fourth novel) of Dan Brown’s academic hero who’s played by Tom Hanks. If symbology were a real academic discipline, it would surely never have been this much fun.
Aided by a genius doctor called Sienna (Felicity Jones), Langdon has to deal with his temporary amnesiac state while deciphering clues about the work of the poet Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) while also running through Florence pursued by the bad guys, or perhaps they might actually be good guys (given that the World Health Organisation as depicted in this movie is armed and very dangerous, who knows what side they may be on?), and an assassin dressed as an Italian policewoman. This includes a trip through the Vasari Corridor, a tour of the various secret passages of the Palazzo Vecchio (from which Langdon has, it transpires, already nicked Dante’s death mask) and a spot of breaking and entering when it comes to the Baptistery next to the Duomo. The main villain (Ben Foster; the actor, not the former Watford goalkeeper) is already dead when the fun starts, and it’s his Dante-inspired trail that Langdon must follow through Florence, Venice and Istanbul in order to stop a deadly plague of the baddie’s devising from being released and killing most of the world’s population (this being his solution to the problem of global overpopulation).
Perhaps because it’s a Dan Brown adaptation, this movie has evidently got a lot of critics riled. Having thoroughly enjoyed myself watching this in the cinema, I can’t help but think that they’ve missed the point. This is a fun caper of a movie set in touristy locations – some of which I’ve visited (although the Vasari Corridor remains a part of Florence I have yet to experience), others which I would very much like to visit – that is rather reminiscent of the Roger Moore-era Bond films in its desire not to take itself too seriously.
This can also be seen in the books – remember when The Da Vinci Code came out? There was a lot of fuss back then over Dan Brown playing fast and loose with certain historical details and conspiracy theories even though that book was never marketed as anything other than a work of fiction (and by no means the first one to kick off with a set of ‘facts’ that weren’t actually real facts) but I must say that I loved it (quite literally couldn’t put it down, to the extent that I was up reading it until dawn the following morning). I liked the film too, and the follow-up Angels & Demons adaptation – although I still for the life of me cannot figure out what accent Ewan MacGregor was trying to do there. I read Inferno a year or so ago, and liked that too; I say this as someone who enjoys reading thrillers that make the reader think a bit. At one point, you have to turn the book (Inferno, that is) upside-down several times in order to read a cryptic poem written in the form of a spiral. To any observer, this makes you look faintly ridiculous. In a way, this sums up the appeal of Dan Brown books rather well – they don’t take themselves too seriously, and while they’re very engaging books you shouldn’t take them too seriously either (they’re perfect holiday, tea-break or commute reading, in other words), a point that Brown himself seems to acknowledge by giving Professor Langdon a Mickey Mouse watch to wear. This is meant to be a bit of fun.
As well as Felicity Jones, Hanks – on good form, as he usually is – has some strong support from Omar Sy and Sidse Babett Knudsen (quite the international cast, this) although the show is almost stolen by Irffan Khan (the man from The Lunchbox) who gets to play the well-dressed, knife-wielding head of a secretive organisation called The Consortium which is based on a boat in the Adriatic and which may or may not be gunning – literally so – for Langdon. Surely a role as the next Bond villain must be beckoning for him after this?
As a film, this is an entertaining couple of hours; I really enjoyed it, and I would therefore recommend it.