(watched in flight)

The plot is ridiculous, the characters are unidimensional, the history is crackpot.  But it’s got actors that are fun to watch (starting with Tom Hanks), more action than dialogue, and some outstanding locations (Florence, Venice, and the less frequently-seen Istanbul).  In short, it’s the perfect airplane movie.  Sit back, relax, and enjoy — but remember to turn your brain off first.

Note on crackpot history — Dan Brown, as in most of his work, takes a historical phenomenon and draws exactly the wrong conclusions.  Some historians do believe, as one of the characters in this movie does, that the Black Death jumpstarted the Renaissance.  But that was a case of accidental timing.  Europe was already emerging from feudalism when the plague hit, and the resulting labor shortages hastened the end of serfdom and, ultimately, fostered the development of labor-saving machinery.  But that doesn’t mean, as the chief villain in this movie proposes, that creating a new plague will push the world forward.  It’s far more likely that devastating plagues will destroy civilizations than rebuild them.  The plague of Justinian, for example, pretty much eliminated the remnants of the Roman Empire in western Europe. And even after the Black Death, it took many European cities decades to recover.  As I said, remember to turn your brain off.

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