DIR: Ron Howard • WRI: David Koepp • PRO: Brian Grazer, Ron Howard • DOP: Salvatore Totino • ED: Tom Elkins, Daniel P. Hanley • DES: Peter Wenham • MUS: Hans Zimmer • CAST: Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Ben Foster, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Irrfan Khan
Remember when The Da Vinci Code was a thing? Dan Brown’s 2003 novel caused public outrage with its insinuation that not only were Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene married, but that they also had a child together. Speculative sensationalism aside, it did at least provide gripping material for students to distract their religion teachers with for half an hour during the year it was relevant. The Robert Langdon series’ prequel, Angel and Demons (2000), and sequels, The Lost Symbol (2009) and Inferno (2013), though successful, were met with decisively cooler receptions. It seems copying and pasting the first novel’s plot structure and just changing the location and female sidekick gets old after the second, third, and fourth time. Alas, despite director Ron Howard’s efforts, the novel’s dull and uninspired plots remain stubbornly so on the big screen. Enter right: Inferno.
Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) awakes in a hospital in Florence, Italy with a bullet injury to his temple and no memory of how he got there or why. After an assassin shows up to ward to finish Langdon off for good, the Harvard professor flees with the help of once-childhood-prodigy, Dr Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones). Unable to comprehend the attempts on his life, Langdon discovers a mysterious, high-tech bio-tube stashed in his coat pocket which may contain answers. Queue the next hour and a half of characters running around various Italian landmarks, priceless works of art being destroyed or stolen, awkward dialogue jammed with random and often irrelevant historical facts, main characters being stalked by several government agencies, Langdon having strangely intimate knowledge regarding secret escape routes in all historical buildings, all the while trying to uncover a mystery that threatens humanity, etc. – you know, the typical Dan Brown set-up. What makes this film so disappointing is that its antagonist, the radical, Dante-obsessed billionaire Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster), is possibly the most engaging of the series. Zobrist’s core argument, the question of over-population, is an intriguing one and more morally grey than the conflicts faced in the previous two film. Unfortunately, events unfurl in such a predictable manner that any tension this predicament offered is quickly drained and discarded in favour of narrative convention.
The best that can be said about the film is that it’s not terrible, it’s just not particularly good either. It’s meh. Ron Howard is a solid director but, while there are some well-crafted shots scattered throughout, the entire film reeks of a nonchalance that is too happy to rely on plot conveniences and cheap twists rather than testing the boundaries. Similarly, the actors’ performances also run along the same vein – perfectly adequate, but not functioning at full capacity. There’s just enough action taking place to save audiences from complete boredom, but not enough to create a real sense of danger. Everything is aimed in the right direction, it just never quite hits the mark.
Ultimately, Inferno will pacify those who want to see lots of scenes dedicated to people running around, but for most it won’t spark the flame.
12A (See IFCO for details)
Inferno is released 14th October 2016 016