Famous symbologist Professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) follows a trail of clues tied to Dante, the great medieval Renaissance poet. When Langdon wakes up in an Italian hospital with amnesia, he teams up with Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), a doctor he hopes will help him recover his memories. Together, they race across Europe and against the clock to stop a madman (Ben Foster) from unleashing a virus that could wipe out half of the world’s population.

Well, that’s the official plot as far as it goes. And the whole film – even at two hours in length – fairly flies by. Hanks barely has time to solve the next puzzle before he’s off again in search of another missing clue in the cryptic crossword of Dante’s dance of life and death – all the while pursued by a myriad of goodies who are baddies, false friends, and government agents on their own agenda. And that’s all before he even has a chance to locate where the virus is really hidden.

Inferno begins with Hanks struggling to regain his memory having been apparently bashed on the head. In the penultimate scene he has a plaster on his forehead from another struggle. In between, he spends plenty of time scratching his head trying to work out what’s going on. In this he’s not alone.

But before we get ahead of ourselves – very easy when Hanks and Co are rushing from church to church to get to the baptismal font on time – let’s get back to the start.

Why try and wipe out half the world in the first place with a deadly virus? Well, it has something to do with getting back to the start – of civilisation and beginning all over again. Over- population can only be stopped by starting again with half the numbers – although how exactly half the world will die and the other half survive is beyond me.

Churlish of me to get all numerological when there’s a cataclysmic catastrophe on the watery horizon, I know. Put it down to a twisted genius who falls from grace (literally) in the opening scene.

Along the way there’s high jinks in the eves of a Florentine medieval church, with crashing results for someone. And an underwater finale, in a basement of another church, this time the Basilica cistern in Istanbul.

Irrfan Khan who plays Harry Sims, the shadowy head of a security firm and Elizabeth Sinskey (Sidse Babett Knudsen), Head of the World Health Organisation, and a former flame of Hanks, are part of the chasing pack with rogue operatives and honourable objectives which seem to conflict and coincide from scene to scene.

Khan, aided by Paul Ritter (Friday Night Dinner tv series) injects a much needed sense of sardonic humour into a plot which, at times, is too earnest for its own good.

Interestingly, filming mass crowd scenes in such historic squares, meant having two sets of extras. A background of tourists and sightseers milling around the palazzos and a circle of professional extras reacting to the action taking place immediately in front of them.

 

After the best-selling Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons books and films, Inferno is very definitely in the same vein. Just don’t let the virus get anywhere near it.

My advice is to sit back and enjoy the rollercoaster ride through the Renaissance. It takes a warped genius to start off the plot but it won’t take a genius to work out the ending. That’s one clue I can give away for nothing.