Sony Pictures 2 hours 1 minute PG-13
Location, Location, Location. Picturesque cinematography of the city and sites of Florence, Venice and Istanbul make this film an exquisite travelogue. But is it a good movie? There are so many elements, and clues flying past so fast in Director Ron Howard’s screen version of Dan Brown’s book, it’s confusing and pretty exhausting.
The DaVinci Code was a blockbuster. Angels and Demons came next and didn’t do as well. Director Ron Howard decided to skip Brown’s third novel, The Lost Symbol, for a more action-packed plot. Tom Hanks as Harvard Professor, Robert Langdon, gets thrown into a search for clues created from Dante’s Inferno and Botticelli’s map of Hell. Howard credits Dante with inventing the modern horror story and this Howard’s first film in that genre.
The film starts with a shocker. A man chased to the top of a cathedral who chooses to fall to his death. Next, Hanks, as Langdon, pops up in a hospital in Florence with a head wound and strung with IV’s. His memory is gone and he’s having painfully vivid hallucinations of people dying and of his past. Doctor Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones) is his attending physician asking him questions he can’t answer when a scary woman in a uniform (An Ularu) comes to kill him. Brooks helps Langdon escape and the chase is on.
They work together to uncover clues from Dante’s writings to try to stop crazy billionaire Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster is a calm but scary villain) from unleashing a lethal virus to get rid of half the people on the planet so the rest can survive. Crazy theory. Problem is, in trying to solve the puzzle to stop the virus, everybody’s after them.
That’s where the twists and turns come in. Who are all these people trying to get to Langdon? There’s a crew from the World Health Organization, including Elizabeth Sinskey (Sidse Babett Knudsen) who we come to find out has history with Langdon, and Irrfan Khan as Harry Sims, Omar Sy as Christoph Bouchard. Hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys. The relationships are not clear. Howard also has the camera zero in on objects that clearly will be important later, but we don't know when or how they will fit into the plot.
This film gets to be a muddle in the middle. Especially trying to pick up on Langdon and Brooks’ rapid fire deciphering of clues from Dante’s work. It’s nearly impossible. How convenient that young Doctor Brooks was a Dante scholar in school. It’s all very curious, confusing and frustrating in between Langdon’s flashbacks and hallucinations.
Will Langdon and Brooks be able to beat their pursuers before the virus is released? It seems contrived that they know secret passages and escape routes like the beams in the attic in that high security world class Museum. Hanks works hard in this one, running and even fighting underwater in Istanbul’s ancient Basilica Cistern. Shot in Italy, Budapest and Istanbul, the visuals are exceptional. You’ll see locations and art treasures in museums shot by Salvatore Totino, Director of Photography, who also provided the pretty pictures for the previous Brown adaptations.
Author Dan Brown says this thriller took him 3 years to write. One year of research for all the details in Florence and two more to put it into book form. He’s loves having Hanks as his main character and watching Director Ron Howard. He says, “Making a movie is a much better spectator sport than watching a writer.”
Although this thriller is fast paced and compelling, it’s also a confusing Literature and Art History Lesson that doesn’t quite make the grade.