Review: Hanks, Howard can’t save tiresome ‘Inferno’

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

You don’t need a hidden set of clues to decipher that “Inferno” is one of the worst movies of the year.

The third entry in the “Da Vinci Code” series — a lollipop to anyone who can remember a single thing about 2009’s “Angels & Demons” — is full of puzzle-chasing intrigue, minus the intrigue. “He’s made an anagram!” Tom Hanks’ professor Robert Langdon declares early on when looking at a coded painting depicting Dante’s Inferno, and he may be the last person alive still excited by these cryptic treasure hunts.

Even against the backdrop of the historical-religious thriller’s previous chapters, “Inferno” is an undisciplined, scattered mess, with twists and plot revelations unspooling with soap opera uncanniness. You wish it would combine with the “National Treasure” movies so Nic Cage could appear and at least liven things up a bit.

Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster) is a doomsday theorist who has whipped up a virus to wipe out half the world’s population, but rather than simply unleashing it, he leaves a trail of bread crumbs for Langdon to follow and potentially halt its release.

He’s helped along by a young nurse (Felicity Jones) who happens to be well-schooled in Dante, and together they trot across Italy saying things like “human lives are at stake!” while explaining historical tidbits to each other.

Director Ron Howard has been slipping for years, and “Inferno” continues that downward trajectory. Hanks is around simply out of obligation, and suddenly his slightly scathing impression of Howard from last weekend’s “SNL” makes a little more sense: it was payback. “Inferno” is hell.

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Rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, disturbing images, some language, thematic elements and brief sensuality

Running time: 121 minutes