Tepid reception for Hanks in Dan Brown’s ‘Inferno’

Tepid reception for Hanks  in Dan Brown’s ‘Inferno’

From the sublime “Sully” to the idiotic “Inferno,” it just proves that when Tom Hanks is good, he’s very good. But when he’s not, well, he’s usually playing super sleuth Robert Langdon, the hero of Dan Brown’s bestselling novels.

This third installment from Brown’s books is not the very worst of the three, but that’s not saying much. There is just something not quite right about Hanks in the role of the academic thrown into solving global crisis after global crisis with only hours to spare. This time, said crisis involves a billionaire named Bertrand Zubrist (Ben Foster) who, we learn in flashbacks, is a bit phobic about our planet’s exponentially increasing population.

In his twisted mind, the only way to teach us a lesson and cull out the herd is a lethal bio-agent he has created and plans to unleash on the world, killing about half of the population in just a few days. But for Langdon, the story begins in a hospital bed in Florence where he wakes up, injured and unable to remember the past 48 hours. He is attended by Dr. Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), who ends up saving his life when an assassin visits Langdon’s room.

On the run and trying to remember how he got from Cambridge to Florence, Langdon and Sienna run into a World Health Organization team led by an old friend of the professor’s, Elizabeth Sinskey. They are on to Zubrist, who killed himself jumping from a building just days ago, but somewhere the demented genocidal maniac has hidden the lethal chemical, and now Langdon has only clues from Dante’s “Inferno” to guide him to the spot.

The story arch follows the same trajectory as the other two movies based on this character — meaning a frantic city-hopping chase across Europe to collect the clues from ancient paintings and artifacts in order to solve the mystery. You must also suspend your disbelief at the way Langdon is able to navigate so assuredly. Need a taxi to get away from three vans full of bad guys? No problem! One pulls up to the curb with only seconds to spare. Never mind about settling the fare, the driver is sure to understand that you are the famous Robert Langdon and you don’t have time to pay because billions of people are depending on you.

Aside from that, there is Hanks’s interpretation of Langdon. He took a serious beatdown when he premiered in the adaptation of Brown’s huge bestseller, “The Da Vinci Code,” in some weird shingle cut that looked like he was trying out for a boy band. Thankfully, that’s gone, but his stilted delivery, even in a clutch with Elizabeth (Sidse Babett Knudsen of HBO’s “Westworld”) is just painfully awkward. Note to Dan Brown and David Koepp, the duo who wrote the screenplay: No more love scenes with the good doctor. He’s just not cut out for romance.

The suspense in this is raised from not knowing who to trust. Who is trying to get the lethal virus to sell it to a foreign power? Who is masquerading as a hero but secretly is aligned with Zubrist’s philosophy? And who is actually one of the good guys?

It will keep you guessing for awhile as Langdon and the rest of the cast race from Florence to Venice with other stops before alighting in Istanbul. Langdon’s perfect recall for every secret door and passageway in every old church or museum that allows him to stay one step ahead of everyone is almost comical.

Even with its frenetic pace and tense situations, “Inferno” never really does catch fire.