We overeducated people gotta like a movie where the main character
is a professor of antiquities. Yes,
Dan Brown has written another novel featuring his hero Robert Langdon (Tom
Hanks), who solves puzzles nobody else can because he's so well read, and
because he remembers everything. More
importantly, he's not just hanging out in the ivy-covered towers in
complete obscurity; he's a world-renowned expert on....Dante?
Yes, the context for this film is Dante Alighieri's 14-century
novel about his personal tour of Hell, guided by the Roman poet Virgil.
Dante envisions nine levels of Hell, depending on one's sins
committed while alive on Earth. (He also wrote two sequels about tours
through Purgatory and Paradise.) The
19th-century Illustrator Dore' made Dante's work even more famous by his
elaborate artistic impressions of Dante's poetry.
It so happens that our esteemed Professor Langdon is not the only
expert, though---he actually encounters an ER doc, Sienna Brooks (Felicity
Jones), who's very knowledgeable herself.
The reason Dr. Langdon meets her is because he finds himself
hospitalized in Florence, Italy, with a head injury, when according to his
fuzzy memory he should be at Mass. General.
Dr. Brooks understands some of his mumbling references to Dante,
and wonders if they might contain clues as to how Dr. Langdon ended up as
one of her patients.
As a further subtext, we viewers also meet Bertrand Zobrist (Ben
Foster), who apparently has collected quite a following with his dire
predictions of immediate crisis in overpopulation.
He says we will starve ourselves out of our own resources within a
generation unless we do something drastic.
Frustrated at being dismissed as one of those “the sky is
falling” crackpots, he decides to take matters into his own hands, by
developing a deadly virus that will immediately kill off half the world's
population. The survivors, of
course, will enjoy plenty of elbow room, but there may be some trauma in
So it's up to our resourceful Professor Langdon to solve the clues
that Mr. Zobrist has left behind, to find the deadly virus before it's
released. The clues, of
course, have to do with his expertise in ancient art and symbolism, as
only he can both translate Latin inscriptions on centuries-old paintings,
and interpret the clues that would take him to Venice and Istanbul as well
as Florence. And yes, the
urgency is that there are people after him as he does his sleuthing, while
in the company of our lovely ER doc, and he's not sure even who the bad
guys are, much less why they are after him.
Worse, he's suffering from hallucinations related to the levels of
Dante's Inferno, which we viewers don't know how to interpret, either.
Director Ron Howard utilizes the herky-jerky hand-held camera
technique, particularly at first, as our interpid Professor tries to work
his way out of his mental fog. Yes,
there's some violence and some chase scenes, too, but fairly sanitized
(it's still rated PG-13). And
don't bother trying to make complete sense of all the random clues and the
arcane academia---it's really more about saving the world from the
dastardly deed of a madman, as we breathlessly rush from one venue to the
next while staying one step ahead of our relentless pursuers.
Logical? Not so much.
But who knows how many people will actually try reading a little of
Dante's Inferno as a result? A
little classical education couldn't hurt.
And might help.