Directed by Ron Howard
Starring Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Ben Foster, Omar Sy, Irrfan Khan, Ana Ularu, & Sidse Babett Knudsen
Film Review by Chris Olson
Given that the last film from the Dan Brown franchise came out in 2009, with the flawed but watchable Angels & Demons, you would think that Ron Howard's latest addition would be something of a progression, if only through necessity with keeping up with others in the thriller genre. Otherwise why bother? The title suggests a fiery film full of fun frolics with finding stuff and fighting fanatics, regrettably the reality is something that cannot even stand should to shoulder with its predecessors (The Da Vinci Code being the first instalment).
Historian-cum-Travel-Guide-cum-Action-Hero, Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), awakes in a sterile hospital room, beaded with the cold sweat of night terrors. Atop his head is a ghastly gash, his breathing is short, and flashing imagery of hell on Earth plagues his mind. So it is fair to say our hero is going through some sh*t. However, he doesn't have long to find out the who, what, where and why's, because a Ana Ularu dressed as an Italian policewoman has just shot one of his nurses and is now coming for him. Luckily enough, one of his other nurses (Felicity Jones) is on hand to help him escape from the scene. Therein lies the set up and the rest of the film, if you have seen any of other DB movies this will come as no shock, is full of clues, secrets and conspiracy. It's like an uncomfortable crossover between a walking tour of Italy full of secret passageways, and a Jason Bourne chase 'em, with the baddies being always one piazza behind.
Having never read the series of books (although I have read some other Brown novels) I will review this simply as a Ron Howard movie, and the verdict is middling at best. Plagued by a script that is chewing itself with exposition, Inferno never manages to elevate itself above a simplistic caper told in the most convoluted manners. If you removed the startling imagery and few moments of blood, this film has more in common with National Treasure than anything else. It constantly explains what's happening as it is happening, treating the audience like a moron simply because the premise has some vague connection to Dante, which must be too cultured for our primitive eyes and ears.
The characters are presented like a who's who of rejects from action films of yesteryear, delivering banal statements about they went this way or they're going that way. No real attention is paid to the surrounding cast, they simply serve as glaring road signs in uniforms. Oh and then the goodies become baddies and vice versa, but that's not a spoiler because you would see that coming like a giant basilica up the ass. Howard tries to create an air of sophistication and intelligence to the film which simply isn't there. The storytelling is clumsy and grating, and the majority of the movie is spent in pointless clarification.
That being said, Hanks is...ok. Perhaps a little too autumn to be chased through the streets of Florence. In one scene the audience has to wait several moments whilst he attempts to get down some stairs that Jones has already completed several seconds earlier. It was as if Howard thought he was directing Matt Damon in a Bourne film! There is always a charisma to Hanks' performance but even that goes drowned out by the cacophony being delivered by the visuals.
The breakneck speed that Inferno tries to attain and maintain is driven by Hans Zimmer's earth-shattering score and the frenetic editing. Then the dialogue just chokes it up with bungled lines telling everyone what is going on whilst it happens. This could have been either a solid thriller or an intelligent mystery, but ended up being a haphazard adventure film with violent imagery mixed in with caricatures doing a 100mph...apart from Hanks who trails behind trying to slow the movie down enough to make it comprehensible, but failing.
Aside from the beautiful city of Florence and a decent turn from Irrfan Khan as a private security mogul, there is not much to enjoy about Inferno. Consumed by it's own pretentiousness, audiences will likely be begging for the seventh circle of hell by the time they reach the final third.
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