Ron Howard’s third Robert Langdon adventure, Inferno, is a perfect exercise in what these films do best. They’re of a higher intelligence of most action flicks, and despite some incredulous plot points and ridiculous circumstances, there’s an interesting basis in history and relevant social themes. Yes, there’s exaggeration and silliness abound, but with Landgon, Howard and Tom Hanks have created a compelling modern hero that’s worthy following into exciting international adventures.
After waking up from a coma in Florence, Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) escapes the hands of mysterious assassins with the help of Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), a doctor obsessed with Langdon’s work. With the death of billionaire Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster), Langdon begins to discover Zobrist’s obsession: creating a virus to control human population. But when it’s discovered that the virus would destroy half of the world’s population, Langdon must track down Dante’s clues to stop the virus and save the world.
Ron Howard’s film is a great balance of ridiculous and relevant. The idea of a global treasure hunt to find an age old virus is preposterous, but the idea of population control is a timely one made relevant but the action adventure aspect of the film. The clues that lead the adventure are well staged, and the story, while quite convoluted at times, makes some surprising twists and turns that make it genuinely compelling. It’s many characters are hard to follow at points, and the film does begin to slow down in it’s third act, but some well staged chase sequences make up for the expositional phases.
Hanks, always reliable, is great here as Langdon, a character compelling because of his intellect and relatable for his morality. Felicity Jones makes for a strong sidekick with revelations deepening her character throughout. However, the standout of the film remains Ben Foster; while his story is primarily told in flashbacks, Foster’s character is a very compelling villain that makes an argument that’s worth taking seriously.
Inferno is great fun; it does slow down at points and can be confusing at points, but some solid set pieces and great performances elevate the material greatly. Ron Howard remains one of the best directors working today, and the film’s gorgeous locations and swift editing serves as a reminder of his status. While I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing more Robert Langdon adventures in the future, if this serves as the last in the series, it is a worthy sendoff. Grade: B-