Elaborate race against time

Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones (both above) have to solve a series of clues to save Earth.
Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones (both above) have to solve a series of clues to save Earth.PHOTO: SONY PICTURES

REVIEW / THRILLER

INFERNO (PG13)

121 minutes/Now showing/3/5 stars

The story: Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), professor of symbology at Harvard University, wakes up in a hospital in Florence with a head injury and no memory of how he got there and what happened in the last few days. When an assassin shows up, his doctor, Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), helps him get away. Together, they need to solve a series of clues to reach a deadly pathogen that could wipe out half of Earth's population. Based on Dan Brown's 2013 novel of the same name. One of the pleasures a Dan Brown film adaptation offers is allowing viewers to watch the characters traipse about beloved landmarks and institutions and/or cavalierly handle all manner of cultural treasures - the Louvre's Mona Lisa in 2006's The Da Vinci Code (a replica was used) and the Vatican in 2009's Angels & Demons (although filming did not actually take place there).

In Inferno, viewers get to see Hanks and Jones worming their way through crawlspaces and secret passages in Florence's monumental town hall, Palazzo Vecchio, and the death mask of Italian poet Dante getting swiped as easily as candy in an unmanned shop.

Dante is the author of the 14th- century epic, Divine Comedy, of which part one is titled Inferno. The movie taps on his idea of hell to present unsettling images of extreme pain and suffering and also, a drawing of it contains the first riddle that Langdon has to solve.

Thanks to veteran director Ron Howard's sure hand, one gets engrossed in Langdon and Brooks' race against time in an elaborate game.

Details start to niggle only when one starts to think about them.

Langdon's head trauma seems at first to be a good idea for the story - it means that the hero is compromised. But as with the recent thriller, The Girl On The Train (2016), the director makes use of a far too convenient plot device: what the protagonist forgets, or remembers - and when.

Also, does one really need a professor of symbology to make sense of the clues? As Brooks deftly demonstrates in one scene, a Google search could be just as helpful.

Then again, that would not make for a popcorn flick that people would want to watch.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2016, with the headline 'Elaborate race against time'. Print Edition | Subscribe