Wednesday, 9 November 2016
Movie Review: Inferno (2016)
Harvard University symbologist Professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) wakes up in a Florence hospital, with evidence of a bullet having grazed his head, suffering from short term memory loss and horrific hallucinations of a hell-on-earth. Dr. Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones) administers care, but soon she is helping him flee the hospital when assassin Vayentha (Ana Ularu) shows up, seemingly intent on killing Langdon. At Sienna's apartment they discover a miniature image projector in Langdon's possession depicting Sandro Botticelli's Map of Hell, a visualization of Dante's Inferno. The image has been slightly modified to contain clues.
The hidden text in the image suggests that recently deceased billionaire Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster) has arranged for a catastrophic virus to be unleashed on humanity to solve the overpopulation problem, and it's up to Langdon to discover the virus location and stop its release. Langdon and Sienna chase down a series of art-based clues in Florence and Venice, hotly pursued by the assassin Vayentha, World Health Organization officials Christoph Bouchard (Omar Sy) and Elizabeth Sinskey (Sidse Babett Knudsen), as well as Harry Sims (Irrfan Khan), the head of a secretive private security agency.
Directed by Ron Howard, Inferno is a soulless connect-the-dots exercise. While the book was already suffering from formula fatigue, the film manages to conclusively erode any lingering interest by defaulting to the worst kind of chase movie, where every other scene has to feature dozens of police cars, helicopters and drones, but none of it creates any sort of tension or engagement. The intricate puzzles supposedly at the core of Langdon's skill set are presented and solved within about a minute each, reducing the main character to a lumbering professor huffing across a couple of European cities in a perfunctory sprint to a stock climax.
Making matters worse is a plot that ultimately defies all logic. The film changes the book's challenging final twist in favour of a really dumb Hollywood ending. This is not only a weak-kneed surrender to the worst tendencies of an industry often afraid to provoke debate, but in this case also undermines the entirety of Zobrist's carefully constructed plot.
The few flashback scenes to Zobrist ironically emerge as the most interesting thing that Inferno has to offer: a movie about the billionaire would have been much more interesting, but only in the hands of a more astute director. As for Inferno, it's neither cerebral nor kinetic; just an irritatingly inconsequential burn-out.
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