Director: Ron Howard
Cast: Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Omar Sy, Ben Foster, Sidse Babett Knudsen
Release Date: October 14th
In the never-ending quest to inject his series with enthralling mystery and forced action sequences, Ron Howard has managed to suck what remaining life his Dan Brown adaptations still possess, leaving Inferno to stand precariously on the ashes of what came before. That isn’t to say that it’s terrible, or even so much as bad. It’s entertaining and has all the right pieces necessary to weave a captivating narrative. It has an on-form Tom Hanks, in all his dazed and charming brilliance, a thoroughly likeable (if not boring) co-star in Felicity Jones and just the right amount of brand recognition that should translate itself nicely into solid box office numbers. However, while all the cogs for success are firmly in place, the poorly ran machine that is Howard’s film just doesn’t fire on all cylinders, or on any for that matter. That being said, it still holds a teaspoon full of redeeming qualities.
World renowned symbologist Robert Langdon (Hanks) finds himself once again at the centre of a mischievous plot to change the world as we know it. With the help of Dr. Sienna Brooks (Jones), Langdon has only a handful of hours to regain his lost memories and prevent the Apocalypse. The average viewer might question why a college professor (a symbologist, no less) continuously finds himself the main player in multiple possibly world altering events, but if we’re willing to give Indiana Jones a pass, it’s only fair that we do the same for Langdon.
The first third of the film benefits greatly from its seemingly all too convenient amnesia story arch. This leaves room for Howard to splice otherwise slow scenes, with moments of chaos and the impending Armageddon. It doesn’t quite make up for a subpar plot that fails to really instil any sense of urgency in the viewer, however, it provides short spurts of excitement signifying something big was coming (admittedly it never came, but we didn’t know that at the time). Inferno starts very strongly actually, mounds of intrigue are formed and it promises an interesting reveal if we agreed to stick around till the conclusion and witness what is over the horizon. Inferno asked the right questions, it just doesn’t provide the right answers.
The movie, however, does manage to prove itself to be equal amounts of striking imagery that tend to catch you in awe, while also supplying glimpses of shaky cam and disorientating cinematography that drag you right to the forefront of the action. Langdon is unable to recall his memories and therefore everything he is experiencing or has experienced must be questioned, and the camera work does a great job in projecting this same sense of uncertainty on the viewer. Shifting between foggy shots, where the world is distilled through confusion, to the calmer, zoomed out clips of the setting. Inferno benefits greatly from the variety of location utilised by Howard, so not only are we dragged into these ancient museum halls and gothic architecture that quite literally bring the city to life, but it conveys a sense of grandeur that leaves one feeling small and insignificant. In laymen terms, the idea or concept of the bigger picture is present from the outset. The story extends beyond the realm of Langdon and his symbologist solving posse — yes, it’s as ridiculous as it sounds — it is instead something that threatens the entire planet.
That same sense of threat and malice is present until it reaches its halfway point and then you’re kind of left wondering as to why you should even care. Only a sparse amount of time is taken to articulate the looming danger the protagonist faces, but at that stage, it’s far too easy to distance yourself from the film. The twists aren’t particularly noteworthy and its subtext warning of the impending danger caused by overpopulation is a little too on the nose. A hobbled together romantic subplot and extraneous amounts of exposition ensure the whole thing slowly but steadily becomes a chore to finish. All the necessary pieces are here, but it fails to impress. Although beautifully shot and containing some intricate mystery, Inferno falls just short of surpassing its predecessors.