The sequel hits theaters Oct. 28

By Jessica Fecteau
Updated May 09, 2016 10:30 AM
Elisabetta A. Villa/Getty

Tom Hanks is back as Robert Langdon in the latest Dan Brown adaptation, Inferno, and director Ron Howard tells PEOPLE that this is a performance that is not to be missed.

“This time is more personal to him for various reasons I don’t necessarily want to reveal but there’s a level of uncertainty that offsets his genius level of problem solving skills in some ways and creates great drama,” Howard tells PEOPLE.

The teaser trailer for the film was released on Monday, enticing fans fans of the first two Brown-based films – The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons.

“It’s another of the great Dan Brown button pushing ideas that are provocative, they’re explosive and they create these conflicts between characters who actually represent multiple sides of the issues,” Howard says. “There’s a majority and an edge to this one that is very exciting to me.”

The cast, which also includes Felicity Jones and Ben Foster, shot the project in Italy – adding to the excitement of making the film, Howard says.

“Making these Dan Brown movies are amazing life experiences,” he notes. “You’re thrown into these environments in ways that are really stirring and kind of explosive.”

He adds, “The other thing about this movie that was exciting for me as a director is the Dante connection – the question of Hell and what is it? and what was it for Dante? What could it be for us today? What could society be facing? That provided me as a director a palette of imagery and possibilities, which was fun to play with and apply to this movie.”

When they weren’t filming, Howard says Hanks was doing another form of acting – putting on his best poker face.

“Tom never lets up,” Howard jokes. “It’s the performance of a lifetime. The greatest thing in the world is when the deck goes to him and he’s the dealer because then the Tom Hanks rap begins and it never lets up for the entire hand.”

But Howard says the stakes are “pathetically low” and only dimes and nickels are collected at the end.

Low-stakes poker games or not, Howard says he looks forward to time off set with Hanks.

“He’s a tremendous artist, one of the most intelligent people in the business and he’s a world class hang,” he says. “So anytime we get to go out on one of these adventures and spend some time together, it’s something I always look forward to.”

Inferno is slated to hit theaters Oct. 28.