“Inferno” is the third in a – dare I make it sound important? – trilogy of movies derived from Dan Brown’s beach-read bestsellers. Like those other two lumbering Brown adaptations, “The Da Vinci Code” and “Angels & Demons,” “Inferno” stars Tom Hanks as art historian and cryptologist Robert Langdon, who is supposed to be brainy but more often seems addled.
In “Inferno,” he at least has an excuse, since he is first seen recovering in a hospital bed from a bad head wound. The attending physician is played by a nervously prim Felicity Jones, who seems anything but addled, and the hospital turns out to be in Florence, Italy – Dante Alighieri’s old stomping grounds. This location is crucial because the film, directed with slam-bang clunkiness by Ron Howard, plays out a series of Dante-inspired clues leading to the discovery of a plague virus designed by a loony billionaire biologist (Ben Foster) to cure overpopulation by wiping out half the planet. He’s a pretty good Bond villain, but Langdon is no 007.
Venice, Italy and Istanbul fill out the film’s tour-guide tableaux. A number of energetic actors, including Omar Sy as a shady agent and the always welcome Irrfan Khan as a security firm honcho, duck in and out of harm’s way. It all amounts to not very much, but then again, not very much was expected. Still, given that its plot is powered by abstruse academic clues, you would think that “Inferno” would at least add up to something a little less dumb. But unless you are a Dante scholar, and perhaps not even then, following “Inferno” is a wild goose chase – without the goose. Grade: C (Rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, disturbing images, some language, thematic elements and brief sensuality.)