Inferno 

Tom Hanks, Your Country Needs You

Big stars Tom Hanks (left) and Felicity Jones in Inferno, which failed to make a splash at the box office

Big stars Tom Hanks (left) and Felicity Jones in Inferno, which failed to make a splash at the box office

An Open Letter to Tom Hanks

Dear Tom,

I am writing to inform you of a grave threat to our United States and ask that you step up to save our republic. I have chosen to write an open letter to you, not because I am looking for a cheap gimmick to spice up my review of the aggressively mediocre Inferno, but because I know that celebrities love receiving scolding correspondence from know-it-all peons as much as we love writing them.

I watched Inferno, the third adaptation of Dan Brown's popular book series that began with The Da Vinci Code, and although I'm definitely in the minority, I thought it was OK. The plot may be almost laughably ridiculous, since this was Brown's fourth go-round of trying to wedge a story into the basic formula of "bad people encode their nefarious plans into puzzles involving religious art and iconography that must be decoded in a race against time by Harvard symbolist Robert Langdon," but, compared to the stuff I've been subjected to this year, it might as well be The Third Man. The problem with Langdon as a character is that he is like Aquaman — the problems he is equipped to solve are extremely specific. This time around, Brown borrows from fellow airport bookstore star Robert Ludlum and puts Langdon in a Jason Bourne memory-wipe situation. Ron Howard, as always, delivered a journeyman's competence. Inferno functions most effectively as an IMAX-sized travelogue through the architectural and artistic treasures of Florence and Istanbul.

But Tom, if you see Ron any time soon, please tell him that if you're going to shoot IMAX big, you've got to keep the handheld stuff to a minimum. Whenever there's an action sequence, usually involving Ana Ularu as a mysterious assassin who may or may not be working for the nefarious World Health Organization (who knew they were so evil?), Ron defaults to shaky cam chaos, and when the image is like three stories tall, that's some serious nausea-inducing stuff.

But without you, Tom, the whole thing would have collapsed. You were the best thing about Inferno, the way getting a morphine injection is the best thing about breaking your leg. Your comforting presence really took the edge off the meaning-free dialogue, like when WHO's head asskicker Elizabeth Sinskey (Sidse Babett Knudsen) tells her goons to "Work faster, work smarter, don't trust anyone!"

click to enlarge Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones in Inferno.
  • Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones in Inferno.

You're awesome, Tom, and everyone loves you. You hosted Saturday Night Live as part of the Inferno publicity push and almost single-handedly elevated the show back to the levels the Olds talk about in hushed tones. Your appearance as Doug on the "Black Jeopardy" skit was the smartest thing on TV this cursed election season. Doug's "Make America Great Again" hat marked him as a rural Trump supporter, and you would expect the late-night lefties of SNL to tear into him. But instead, you played him with a subtlety and sympathy not commonly seen on the network of Celebrity Apprentice. It was hilarious, but, most importantly, you used your talents to bring Americans together. That's why we need you to do comedy again.

Look, I get it. You started out in comedy, from Bosom Buddies on TV to Joe Versus the Volcano (which is a masterpiece of life-affirming humor, and I will fight anyone who says otherwise). But comedic actors aren't recognized for their gifts, so you grew up, did Saving Private Ryan, and got recognized as a Serious Actor Man. You've got nothing left to prove. Meanwhile, we've spent the last 18 months getting divided into smaller and smaller polities, played by partisan propagandists into turning on each other. Some people think Hillary Clinton is a literal demon from hell while other people think Donald Trump is a raping raper who rapes, but the one thing that everyone can agree on is how much we love you, Tom. Maybe you and Irrfan Khan, the legendary Bollywood actor who is the only other person to come out of Inferno with their dignity intact, could do a buddy comedy. You know, like when you and Dan Aykroyd did that Dragnet parody back in 1987. Good times.

Soon, this election will be over, and hopefully the demon will beat the rapist. Your country needs you, Tom Hanks, to be silly on camera again, so we can heal. Just think about it, OK?

Your pal,

Chris

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