2016, PG-13, 121 mins.
Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon / Felicity Jones as Dr. Sienna Brooks / Ben Foster as Bertrand Zobrist / Omar Sy as Christoph Bruder / Sidse Babett Knudsen as Dr. Elizabeth Sinskey / Irrfan Khan as Harry Sims / The Provost
Directed by Ron Howard / Written by David Koepp, based on the book by Dan Brown
The title of this film is highly telling.
is a qualitative dumpster fire of incredulously
This is made all
the more shameful considering that this third film in the cinematic
exploits of the super humanly intuitive symbologist Robert Langdon - based
on the literary source material by Dan Brown - has an Oscar winning
director at the helm and a multiple Oscar winning actor in front of
the camera. I tolerated the
first adaptation of Brown's novels in 2006's THE
DA VINCI CODE, but found its follow-up effort ANGELS
AND DEMONS to be absurdly wrongheaded.
INFERNO achieves the impossible by being even more senselessly
constructed and laughably preposterous than its predecessor in featuring a
plot that involves a megalomaniac billionaire that wants to wipe out 90
per cent of the human population using a deadly virus...in order to
curtail chronic overpopulation.
If only he would
be smart enough - or stupid enough, for that matter - to leave a series of
implausibly convoluted clues buried cryptically in classic works of
ancient art that only one crackerjack symbologist in the entire world
could decode? Hmmmmm....
A least INFERNO
doesn't contain - ahem! - an airtight nano-composite shelled antimatter
canistered bomb that's threatening to destroy the Vatican.
Been there, done that.
I'll concede this: INFERNO begins with a kernel of intrigue. As it opens we meet back up with Professor Landon (Tom Hanks, thankfully no longer sporting that ridiculous THE DA VINCI CODE mullet) as he awakens suddenly in an Italian hospital groggy, confused, and with a strafed bullet wound on his noggin. He has no idea how he received such an injury, nor does he remember why he's even in Italy to begin with. The sweaty and panic stricken Langdon is reassured by his nurse Sienna Brooks (the always fetching Felicity Jones) that he's being looked after and is safe...but she also frankly explains to him that he has short term amnesia, which, of course, is one of the oldest and stalest screenwriting troupes around to provide a story with manufactured and convenient conflict. To make matters worse, Langdon seems to be suffering from spontaneous apocalyptic visions of hell on earth, replete with rivers of blood and contorted devilish bodies that are writhing in agony.
In short, he's
having a bad day.
gets worse when an attempt on his life is made, which quickly prompts
Sienna to immediately escort him out of the hospital and back to her
apartment for safety. While
there and after freshening up Langdon discovers that he's in possession of
a tube-like device that projects Botticelli's 15th Century painting The
Abyss of Hell, but both he and the uncommonly intelligent art history and
Dante student that is Sienna manage to uncover a clue in it ("The
circles of hell have been rearranged!" Langdon relays in one of the
film's many unintentionally amusing lines of dialogue) that leads them to
the aforementioned billionaire (a wasted Ben Foster) that's about to
unleash his killer population eradicating virus (dubbed, yup,
"Inferno") on the masses...but when and where is unknown (he
also committed suicide, which makes capturing and questioning him all the
more tricky). Of course, Langdon takes Sienna under his wing as they begin
to engage on a European odyssey of exploring more clues (his debilitating
physical condition miraculously heals within a few short hours, and
despite being able to, for example, remember the secret passage entrances
of Florence's Uffizi Gallery, he still doesn't possess key memories of
what happened to him).
Langdon appears to be the only man in the entire world, I guess, capable
of stopping this deceased zealot's plans, seeing as he's cognitively able
to piece together insanely complex clues with lightning speed even while
suffering from severe head trauma that nearly killed him (one scene shows
him barely being able to open his eyes, whereas others showcase him
studying and disseminating labyrinthine visual codes on paintings that
would make the healthiest man's head spin).
Along the way are people - good and bad - that want Langdon and his
device, some including an assassin posing as a motorcycle cop, some World
Health Organization Officials that suspiciously act like militarized
an obligatory woman from Langdon's past, and a very enigmatic man named
Harry Sims (Irrfan Khan) as the leader of a shadowy security firm that also wants in on the hunt for Langdon.
Sims is very trigger happy, so to speak, with daggers.
directed by Ron Howard, who previously directed the last two Langdon
cinematic adventures, but at times this laughably inane sequel could have
just as well been directed by Ed Wood Jr..
To be fair and obvious sarcasm aside, Howard is one of our finest
populist filmmakers, but his past discipline is no where to be found in
INFERNO, and his overall aesthetic style here is disappointingly one of
its worst traits. This is
driven home in the film's multiple migraine inducing segues that features
Langdon suddenly drifting off to hell-on-earth la-la land that's done with
so much dizzying camera pans, caffeinated direction, and a dizzyingly
hyperactive sense of clarity that it becomes one of the film's constant
visual irritants. The
inherent cheesiness of Howard's C-grade horror film style here is
stupefying; the lauded
filmmaker of APOLLO 13, FROST/NIXON
and CINDERELLA MAN is absolutely
AWOL. On a positive,
though...INFERNO has some pretty establishing shots of Istanbul, Florence
and Venice...so there's that.
One of INFERNO's
most indefensible sins is that, as far as world ravaging thrillers go,
it's a tedious slog to endure, mostly because - as demonstrated in the
previous two franchise entries - it's so obtrusively talky.
Langdon and Sienna run, stop, and then talk and make plot
revelations...and then they run, stop, make even more plot revelations,
and then run again...and so on and so on.
INFERNO is beyond guilty of having characters monotonously and
endlessly explaining what's happening in the story instead of just showing
us. The thunderously stilted
dialogue exchanges, again, do little favors for proven and talented
performers like Hanks and Jones, some of which include "This map is a
trail that he left so someone can find it!" or "Inferno is the
cure to humanity's disease!" or, my personal hysterical favorite,
"Langdon is in possession of the Faraday Tube!"
As the film spirals completely out of control, approaches high
camp, and throws all common sense and logic thoroughly out the window
we're forced to sit through a climatic third act that rarely, if ever,
feels pulse poundingly suspenseful. Never
has the threat of billions of human lives being decimated felt so
unendingly inconsequential as it does in INFERNO.
Hanks is one of
our greatest living actors. There's
no doubt of that. He's a
national silver screen treasure. Mournfully,
he's saddled with a character in Langdon that never feels like he has a
distinct personality or a modicum of charisma.
He's essentially a pathetic puppet that the script uses as a plot
dispensing machine when it's deemed necessary...and not much else.
He's a dull reactive persona that spends a majority of his time in
these films making "But of course, that's it!" declarations.
Hanks tries to impart some semblance of anxiety plagued pathos in
this crazily underwritten character, and he's the only entity here that
makes INFERNO passably watchable. He's
paired reasonably well with Jones, a luminous and adept actress that's
stunted with her own marginalized character whose motives for joining
Langdon make very little credible sense until the midway through the film
when, once explained, you'll want to throw your popcorn at the screen out
of protest for its beyond lazy contrivance.
INFERNO is a very dumb movie made by and featuring some very smart people. It feels less like a big budget studio effort than it does a barely ready for cable TV movie...and it has no business whatsoever being as mindlessly wretched as it is considering the players involved. The sleep and giggle-inducing blandness on display in this exhausted franchise is staggering. I was more than willing to write off ANGELS AND DEMONS as a momentarily shocking blip on Howard's mostly strong resume, but now that I can easily add INFERNO to that wall of shame achievement I'm beginning to wonder if (a) Howard has totally lost his assured and competent directorial mojo of the past and (b) could I possibly ever endure another Robert Langdon adventure? INFERNO could have been a sequel entry that course corrected this extremely problematic series, but all it ends up doing is repeating the historical errors of creative judgment of its antecedents.
I think Professor Langdon would agree that there's an ageless lesson to be learned here about repeating history...and one that doesn't require the meticulous deconstruction of works of antiquity while dealing with a gunshot wound to the head.