Once again, Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) finds himself on a seemingly endless trail of clues in "Inferno," the third installment of director Ron Howard's series of films based on the books by Dan Brown. The film begins with kinetic editing and a suitably creepy voiceover by the character of Zobrist (Ben Foster), whose evil plan entails wiping out most of the world's population. Much like the two other films in the franchise "The Da Vinci Code" and "Angels and Demons," the answers to the mystery set forth by the film lie within ancient history, or more precisely, Brown's version of it. The setup this time revolves around the history of Dante's "Inferno" and the Botticelli painting it inspired. Within Dante's words and Botticelli's painting lie the clues Langdon needs to solve this latest mystery.
While "Inferno" has some things going for it, including the always likable and watchable Hanks as well as rich photography of Italy and Budapest, it unfortunately cannot overcome the ridiculous twists and turns the film constantly thrusts upon the viewer. The film's structure is predictable in the sense that we know each scene is going to lead to another clue or reveal. This is supposed to enamor viewers and keep them guessing. Instead, the trick grows stale about halfway through.
The main problem is that the filmmakers ask viewers to take the story seriously and, while this is noble of Howard and his writer David Koepp, the end result is tiresome and dull. However, there are some legitimately enjoyable moments of intentional as well as unintentional laughter, like the scene in which the two protagonists find themselves being chased by a relentless hovering drone.
Hanks does absolutely all he can to keep viewers involved, and he succeeds in a lot of ways. He is without a doubt the best aspect of the film. The rest of the cast is instantly forgettable. Felicity Jones, coming off of a recent Oscar nomination for her work in "The Theory of Everything" serves as the recipient of Hanks' endless expository history lessons, essentially being a surrogate for the audience. In that respect, she does a good job looking just as bored as we are throughout the run time. Finally, Ben Foster's performance lies mostly within flashbacks where he walks about and speaks to the pitfalls of humanity. There is nothing memorable about it.
"Inferno" serves as the third misfire in a row for Howard's series of Dan Brown adaptations. With this much talent behind as well as in front of the camera, it is a shame the pieces don't come neatly together as we knew they surely would for Robert Langdon. The interest in the mystery is lost once the audience figures out the "clue after clue" structure of the film. We are essentially left waiting for the climax so we can finally grasp onto something concrete and final, instead of another red herring. That being said, the above-average photography and a totally game Hanks make this movie at least watchable for those willing to turn off their brains and look for a diversion.