It starts promising, as Inferno highlights a more diverse cast and deals with a more apocalyptic than theological theme. The goal is to stop a Bond villain type megalomaniac named Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster), who plunges to his death early-on, but has hidden a plague that could wipe out half the earths population. Our hero, Robert Langdon, finds himself in a hospital from a gun-shot abrasion to his head, a slight case of amnesia, and wide-eyed doctor Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones) looking after him. The standard pairing continues, with the young knowledgeable brunette helping “the man who knows way too much”. The duo wastes little time, not even giving Langdon a chance to remember how to say the word coffee, before a mean looking police agent (Ana Ularu) is shooting at them. This sets in motion an intense foot chase across Venice and Istanbul, while they attempt to find clues in order to stop the virus from going airborne.
As his memory returns to his genius level knowledge, Langdon starts to piece together the puzzle found in the painting of Botticelli's “Map of Hell”. We follow along on the scavenger hunt to save humanity, with a music score from Hans Zimmer ratcheting up the intensity. Meanwhile, agents Bouchard (Omar Sy), the director of the World Health Organization-Elizabeth (Sidse Babett Knudsen), and mystery businessman Harry Sims (Irrfan Khan) track the two with other motives in mind. What Ron Howard and writer David Koepp (returning from Angles & Demons) do well, is have the spirit of Dan Brown's work in mind, keeping the pace of the chase up tempo, with a ticking clock, and beautiful locations in the background. The moments of believability fade in the second half, where one twist becomes five twists, causing us to question prior motives, and stretches what a random college professor is allowed to get away with.
There are some positive highlights during Inferno, including Hanks who fits the role of Langdon quite well, carrying himself with a believable old man run, while his luxurious hair looks salon quality. Jones is the more impressive performer though, showing an urgent and fierce attitude that should ease any worries that Star Wars fans have in anticipation of Decembers Rogue One. Were it not for these two, I think the entire experience of Inferno would be a fiery hell. I think what Howard is going for is the thrill of mystery achieved in films such as, Hitchcock's Vertigo or Fritz Lang's Man Hunt, but those films don't spin the audience dizzy.
Ultimately, Inferno won't feel like a complete miss, in fact I'm surprised that these three Dan Brown novel-movies provided at least some semblance of cinematic success, and the ending here is pretty tense. What truly disappoints me is that two legends of cinema, such as Hanks and Howard, are working with material that is below the bar of their quality of work. There is nothing memorable or tangible to take away from these films, from a director or an actors standpoint. The success of Inferno is dependent on how much you let slide, but even after that, it's not setting the movie-going experience ablaze.
2 ½ Stars
Written by: Leo Brady
STARRING: TOM HANKS; FELICITY JONES; OMAR SY; BEN FOSTER; IRRFAN KHAN
DIRECTED BY: RON HOWARD
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 2 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
In Roger Ebert's review of 2009's Angels & Demons, he spoke about how “these types of films require the audience to be forgiving, and if we are, we will be entertained.” That same theory still applies for Inferno- the third installment from author Dan Brown's best-selling novels, with Ron Howard directing and Tom Hanks returning as the slick faux-haired symbologist professor Robert Langdon. The problem this go around, and with all three Da Vinci Code movies, is that the plot typically runs out of patience for the believable, in what are often ridiculous mystery thrillers. Inferno is more of the same, but if you don't take it so serious, you'll enjoy yourself up to a point, then the charm of Hanks and multiple plot twists start to burn off.