It is a truth universally acknowledged that a film in possession of Tom Hanks must be a pretty solid film. From his crazy 80s days of Splash and Big to his award winning Philadelphia and Forrest Gump days, and his recent family friendly side in the Toy Story films and the Polar Express, Tom Hanks is a bona fide Hollywood success story, one of my favourite actors and an all-around wonderful human being. He can make a film better just by being in it, but does that guarantee it’s going to be a good film?
His latest film is Inferno, the third instalment of the Dan Brown series (following The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons) in which he plays infamous symbologist Robert Langdon. When Langdon wakes up in Florence with no memory of the last 48 hours, he and ex-child prodigy Sienna (Felicity Jones) must race against the clock and several unknown adversaries to stop a biological weapon and a doomsday maniac from spreading the new Black Plague.
Like always, Tom Hanks is easily the best part of this film: his intelligence and warm charm anchors an otherwise haphazard plot, and although he is rather subdued in this tense role, he’s still enjoyable and emotionally engaging. Hanks is also complemented by a cast whose films we should all see more of: Felicity Jones’ strong, passionate and clever Sienna is a force to be reckoned with as she teams up with Langdon, and Omar Sy’s Christoph Bouchard and Irrfan Khan’s Harry Sims keep everyone guessing in a film full of twists and turns, where you never know who you can trust.
It’s these twists, however, that are the film’s downfall; whilst some are genuinely surprising and exciting, most are just fanciful and there for shock factor, and in the film’s attempts to prove itself as a suspenseful thriller, it loses its tension, as audiences grow to anticipate when something will happen. Speaking of which, Inferno also falls into the trap of Making Big Things Happen All The Time, which, again, is not suspenseful, as we know Langdon’s going to pull through. Even the main plot, the biological weapon and the widespread disease it could cause, is in itself tensionless, because endings of that kind are poison to series. This IS a franchise, after all.
As a newbie to the Langdon series, however, one element of Inferno that was enjoyable was its history – Langdon’s Indiana Jones-esque knowledge and globetrotting was fascinating and by far the most enjoyable aspect of the film, as everything from Dante’s Nine Levels of Hell to death masks are brought into play. However, this was also the most neglected part of the film, and in a film so full of gorgeous Venetian and Florentine architecture and scenery, it needed the historical depth to back up the eye candy.
If you’re looking for a charismatic, engaging main character to take you on another in-depth historical mystery across the prettiest parts of Europe, perhaps you should watch Indiana Jones instead. For all the similarities in the two series, Indy does it better – except for Tom Hanks as the lead, who, as a high point of the film and an enjoyable character, manages to lift the film to a passable “good”. Like I said, everything Tom Hanks touches may turn to Hollywood gold, but history might not welcome this Hanks gem to the hall of fame.
With a solid cast of some of my favourites, here’s my top five favourite films starring the cast of Inferno:
- Toy Stories 1-3 – Tom Hanks
- The Intouchables – Omar Sy
- Jurassic World – Irrfan Khan
- Felicity Jones – The Theory of Everything
- Forrest Gump – Tom Hanks
Photos taken from IMDb.com: