Inferno (2016)

His greatest challenge. Humanity’s last hope.

If the Robert Langdon Series suggests anything, it’s that everyone likes a good brainteaser, what with writer Dan Brown’s billion-dollar book-to-film adaptations, The Da Vinci Code (2006) and Angels & Demons (2009), grossing a packet at the worldwide box office. This inevitable third picture in the franchise (based on the fourth book) sees director Ron Howard back at the helm, re-teaming with the ever-reliable Tom Hanks who reprises the role of the Indiana Jones type Harvard symbologist, Professor Robert Langdon. Borrowing its title, Inferno, from the first part of Dante Alighieri’s 14th Century masterwork Divine Comedy, which features his famous depiction of Hell, the film opens with Langdon awakening (after an apocalyptic dream/ hallucinatory vision) in a Florentine hospital with a nasty gash on his noggin and a case of ‘mild retrograde amnesia.’

' ... symbology is my kinda terminology.'
‘ … symbology is my kinda terminology.’

By his side is Dr. Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), who informs the wounded Langdon that she recognized him almost instantly, being a big fan of his work from an early age. Alas, the two don’t have much time to get acquainted as Vayentha (Ana Ularu) — a Terminator-esque female cop — storms into the building to take the groggy Langdon out. As Dr. Brooks and her unsteady patient flee the scene, eventually hiding out in Brooks’ apartment, they learn that Langdon is in possession of a capsule with something inside called a Faraday Pointer — a thingamajig that projects an image of Sandro Botticelli’s Map of Hell. The illustration however, has been altered with letters scattered at various points across the piece. What could it all mean? After deciphering the hidden message, the duo embark on a race against the clock across Europe, through tourist locations, art galleries and the Basilica, to piece together a mystery from the shattered remains of Langdon’s memory and stop a radical by the name of Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster) from wiping out half of the world’s populace.

While not as dull as The Da Vinci Code, Inferno falls somewhere between the said and Angels & Demons, this three-quel more focused on sightseeing as opposed to stimulating the mind, a large chunk of the flick’s 121 minute run-time spent watching Hanks and Jones scuttle through crowded European hot spots (such as the Palazzo Vecchio, in Florence, Italy, and the Hagia Sophia museum in Istanbul, Turkey) in order to outrun pursuits and reach their next checkpoint or Renaissance period clue. Moreover, the screenplay by David Koepp, Jurassic Park (1993), gets more and more preposterous and contrived the longer it ‘runs,’ with rushed exposition being delivered on the scamper, during all the huff and puff.

Just a lovely urgent stroll through Europe
Just a lovely urgent stroll through Europe

Even the cast look as though they’re a little tired (or jetlagged) this time around, and that’s counting the usually charismatic Tom Hanks, whose character — Robert Langdon — has (thankfully) been given a more suitable hair cut. Alas, he’s also been loaded with an inappropriately aged co-star in Felicity Jones (who’s about thirty years younger than Hanks). That said, at least the doe-eyed Jones gets to do a bit of cardio as Dr. Sienna Brooks, which she probably needed for her role in the upcoming Star Wars flick, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016). Hot on their trail is Omar Sy, Burnt (2015), as Christoph Bouchard, head of the RSR team, as well Dr. Elizabeth Sinskey, played by Sidse Babett Knudsen from HBO’s Westworld (2016), who portrays the director/ general of the WHO — the World Health Organization — a company also after Langdon. In addition, both Sinskey and Langdon are given a hazy romantic subplot that pretty much goes nowhere. *Sigh* At least Irrfan Khan, Jurassic World (2015), looks to be having a smidgen of fun as Harry Sims, the guy who’s running the consortium that’s looking after Zobrist’s interests — well, until he swoops in to aid our protagonist by filling certain gaps in the storyline (some of which seem awfully convenient).

Oh, if you’re wondering, ‘Inferno’ isn’t just a reference to Dante or the origin of the puzzles Langdon has to solve, it’s also the name of the deadly virus that Ben Foster’s tech-crazed tycoon, Zobrist, has concocted to kill billions, which, according to his own delusional mind, would save the planet from overpopulation — these notions being what author Dan Brown has imagined to be two modern day concepts of Hell: an overcrowded world, one where many are unable to find sustenance, and a disease with the capacity to wipe out half of the planet’s inhabitants.

'This'll make a good column!'
‘This’ll make a good column!’

Concluding in the red waters of the subterranean cisterns of Istanbul, Inferno finishes with a thrilling climax that saves the flick from sinking into cinematic purgatory, filmmakers staging a tense final showdown just in the nick of time. But, was there ever any doubt that the quick-thinking and resourceful Langdon wouldn’t save the day? — and with a sketchy memory, too. Even so, I don’t know how he was able to identify famous landmarks from a hospital window when the dude couldn’t even remember what the words for coffee or tea were!

3 / 5 – Good

Reviewed by Mr. Movie

Inferno is released through Sony Pictures Australia