‘Inferno’ Review 1 Star
After having caught Angels & Demons on television just a few days prior to my viewing of the third installment in the series, Inferno, I was actually looking forward to returning to a world of nonsensical historical jargon and unrealistic adventures. But what Inferno ended up having in store for me was something that I was not expecting at all. After the initially intriguing fifteen minutes that were filled with unsettling hallucinations of Italian Renaissance characters and symbols, what ensued was an overly frantic film that never managed to get a grip on the story it wanted to tell.
We meet back up with Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) in the hospital after he’s had a severe head trauma. His mind is filled with distorted images, all of which become increasingly aggravating from the overuse of “shaky-cam,” and he can never seem to get a grasp on what’s real and what’s not. And considering who we are dealing with, top secret government officials are after Langdon so that they can recover, bear with me here, a miniature pointer that contains a secret map. The plot becomes even more ridiculous as one of the medical workers attending to Langdon, Dr. Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), teams up with him to escape to safety. While those types of absurd plot twists are not anything unnatural for this series, how they are executed in Inferno feels so bland and laughably ill-advised. That’s even more surprising when you see that the script was written by veteran scribe David Koepp (Jurassic Park, Spider-Man). How does someone that talented turn in a script so mediocre? I think we all know the answer.
Besides the many issues with the written material (including Dan Brown’s novel), director Ron Howard has nothing at his disposal to create anything more than just a hollow piece of entertainment — and a dull one at that. If we are supposed to care about half of the world’s population being potentially wiped out in a matter of days, that weight should be felt. Instead, it’s simply just a backdrop for Langdon and Brooks running from one place to another. Even though Angels & Demons wasn’t anything mind-blowing, it at least was aware enough of its own stupidity to not take itself too seriously. But what I found compelling about that film — and, at times, The Da Vinci Code — was the element of incorporating historical context into what was happening. Even if they weren’t always true, Hanks’ undeniable lovability was enough for me to get invested in what he was saying.
It’s just that Inferno basically strips all of that away aside from a few scattered moments. What’s worse is any potential for excitement is hindered because even Hanks doesn’t look like he wanted to be a part of this. This is saddening to me on a personal level because this may actually be the first time ever that Hanks was not my favorite actor in a film. I think his unusually lackluster performance was also more obvious to me because of Jones’ enthusiasm. Ever since I witnessed her amazing performance in 2014’s The Theory of Everything, I’ve been hooked. She’s one of those rare performers that appears as though they know something everyone else doesn’t, therefore you can’t take your eyes off of her because you just can’t wait to see what she does next. As cliched as that may sound, she’s one of the few parts of Inferno that kept me awake until the end credits. And while I may not be crazy about where he character ends up, Jones’ presence was still the film’s saving grace. Because if you take her out of the equation, there’s not much else to enjoy.
People complained that The Da Vinci Code was bloated and frequently dull, while Angels & Demons just went too far into the outlandish. But now throwing Inferno into the mix, I would happily watch the first two again before revisiting this one. You never get a sense of what’s going on or why, nor are you provoked by any stimulating visuals. It feels like everyone involved wants to get to each location just so that they can finish the movie and be done with it. I doubt that diehard readers of Brown will feel the same way as I did, especially considering that the novels have essentially become run-of-the-mill airport bookstore material. I’m only bringing that up because it’s how most of Inferno plays; it’s something you take a brief look at, shamefully spend some pocket money on, and then later feel let down by your own unreliable impulses.
Film Review: ‘Inferno’
Reviewed on Oct. 6, 2016. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 121 MIN.
PRODUCTION: A Columbia Pictures, Imagine Entertainment presentation in association with L Star Capital. Producers: Brian Grazer, Ron Howard. Executive producers, David Householter, Dan Brown, William N. Connor, Anna Culp, Ben Waisbren.
CREW: Director: Ron Howard. Screenplay: David Koepp, adapted from the novel by Dan Brown. Camera (color, widescreen): Salvatore Totino. Editor: Dan Hanley, Tom Elkins.
WITH: Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Irrfan Khan, Omar Sy, Ben Foster, Ana Ularu, Ida Darvish, Paul Ritter. (English, Italian, French dialogue)