FILM REVIEW - INFERNO
Running Length: 121 minutes
Release Date: 14th October 2016
Directed by: Ron Howard
Cast: Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Omar Sy, Ben Foster
Screenplay by: David Koepp
Director of Cinematography: Salvatore Totino
No, this isn’t a movie about Tom Hanks finding subliminal messages in a rare first pressing of The Trammps disco classic. This Inferno is the much-harder-to-dance-to Dante variety. After The Da Vinci Code (2006) and Angels and Demons (2009) Hanks and director Ron Howard take a third crack at Dan Brown’s hot-cake selling series.
Inferno kicks off with “professor of religious iconography and symbology” Robert Langdon (Hanks) waking up in a Florence hospital with a bullet wound to the head and no memory of the last 24 hours. Before he’s had a chance to brush his teeth an assassin disguised as a policewoman shows up and tries to kill him. Langton escapes with the help of Dr. Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones) and begins to piece the lost details together. He finds a biohazard canister containing Botticelli’s Map of Hell in his jacket, and this eventually leads him to a plot by billionaire geneticist Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster) to fix the problem of overpopulation. Zobrist has engineered the Inferno pandemic, capable of infecting 97% of humanity within one week, and Langdon must find it before the pandemic is released. With Sienna in tow and pursued by the WHO, Langdon takes off across Florence, Venice and Istanbul in search of the virus.
It’s hard to say what drew Hanks to the role of Langdon (apart from oodles of cash), because the character is a complete charisma vacuum. It certainly doesn’t play to any of his many attributes.
Had he decided not to return for this third instalment then the part could have easily been filled by any other actor (of a certain age) without missing a beat. Foster’s participation amounts to little more than a mid-movie Ted Talk cameo, and Jones has been given the thankless task of expositional heavy lifting. Her magical polymath is a multi-lingual doctor, art historian, and theology expert, but she mainly points at things and translates stuff for the audience. The stand-out is undoubtedly Irrfan Kahn’s turn as a high profile fixer for big business. Kahn doesn’t get nearly enough screen time, but he is delightfully sardonic and brings some sorely needed levity.
Beyond that and the few moments of intentional humour fall completely flat, and vice versa. Inferno is funny in all the wrong places. This is down to Dan Brown’s turgid plotting and clunky dialogue, which has been dialled down somewhat but not completely removed. The Da Vinci Code was a monumentally dumb movie, but it made an absolute mint and established a pattern that’s repeated here. It doesn’t matter what country he finds himself in. stick Langdon in a cathedral, art gallery or a museum and he’ll find a secret doorway that leads to some hidden catacombs. This is ludicrously elaborate scavenger hunt is more like a point-and-click adventure game than a thriller. It’s joyless codswallop, with one painting leading to another anagram leading to another artefact and on and on and on. Swallowing any of this po-faced nonsense will require a massive suspension of disbelief.