Director: Ron Howard
Starring: Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Ben Foster and Irrfan Khan
Release Date: Oct 14
Jurassic Park, The Exorcist and The Godfather, these three titles have a common thread running through all them: Books first, films second. And yet, it’s far more likely you thought of the film first, if you thought of the books at all.
The adaptations of Dan Brown’s books will never have that problem, sadly.
Despite being an impressive box office hit, The Da Vinci Code, and its follow-up Angels and Demons, didn’t exactly knock the socks off of critics. Both films, and now Inferno, lack any self-assurance. With no commitment to genre or tone, the inevitable result is little more than an animated postcard.
Inferno sees world-weary genius Robert Langdon (Hanks) suffering from short-term amnesia, a neat little handicap in case he’s gotten a little cocky from saving the world twice already.
This time around, he is paired up with his doctor/fan-girl, Dr Sienna Brooks (Jones) as they attempt to avoid murder at the hands of a shady organisation, and to find the location of a deadly manufactured plague before it is released, killing more than half of the world’s population.
…shouldn’t be that dull then, surely?
There is a noticeable emphasis on action in Langdon’s third outing. Riddles are solved alarmingly quickly so that there is more focus on foot and car chases. After the terminally dull Da Vinci Code, this might seem like a step in the right direction.
Unfortunately, the franchise Ron Howard appears to be taking cues from, and emulating poorly, is the Bourne movies. Shaky camera work infects the action scenes, adding nausea to the sub-standard plot. It’s a basic 007/Mission Impossible sort of deal, and drenching the set with religious imagery does little to distract from that.
So much of Inferno simply comes across as wasted effort then. In particular, there is an early scene that presents us with Langdon stumbling through a fully realised portrayal of Dante’s ‘Inferno’, with malformed zombies suffering for their sins in Hell.
This suggests a far darker film than the one that follows, but it feels totally divorced from the finished product. It’s jarring, but not in an effective way and bears the tell-tale signs of a scene made specifically for the trailer, to widen the film’s mass appeal.
Where the meat of the film should be, and irritatingly feels just out of reach, is in the characters and their relationships. Langdon and Dr. Brooks get off to a decent enough start, with potential for both comedy and even a little romantic subtext clearly evident from the off.
But with clunky dialogue and horribly forced chemistry, it never comes together. Hanks is likable (no surprises there), but is nonetheless detached from his role, of which there is barely any substance. He has no standout moment that defines the character or the film he’s in, and Jones is both underwhelming and forgettable.
The supporting cast fare better, with a big pulsating ‘ADEQUATE’ stamped across the board. The one exception to this is Irrfan Khan, a notable stand-out. He plays a shady member of afore-mentioned organisation, and manages to balance sinister with quirky in a manner that feels consistent. The highlight of the film is when he and Langdon meet for the first time, but this is still just a very good scene, not a great one.
While competent at a basic level, there is still very little to recommend about Inferno.
It looks nice when the camera isn’t having a spasm attack, and Tom Hanks on a bad day is still better than most.
Yet this is still a bland and uninspired film, happy to stay afloat instead of making waves.
The action is average at best and incoherent at worst. The big questions fueling the narrative are intriguing, but don’t offer any sort of answer, even on a hypothetical level.
And the amnesia angle is simply a McGuffin to propel the plot along, a reason to keep Langdon in the dark. This is particularly disappointing, as that vulnerability could have finally given us a glimpse into Langdon’s mind and made him more relatable.
In the end, this is just another prime example of the book being better than the film.
Written by Stephen Hill