TL;DR – A competently produced National Treasure like film, that really hopes you don’t start thinking through the plot points too deeply.
Score – 2.5 out of 5 stars
I should start this review with a quick clarification, I have not seen any of the films in this series (The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons, and Inferno) nor have I read the source books, this is not because I have any dislike for books in general, indeed I have too many shelves full of them, but just honestly The Da Vinci Code never seemed to be that good. So with the third one of these films coming out and the ability to still get Tom Hanks and Ron Howard involved in something that feels like a straight to DVD release it did have me intrigued, have I misjudged this series? is there actually something here? So with this in mind, I decided to give it a watch with the worst case scenario I get something to write a rant about it. However, what I saw was not a bad film, but it’s not a good one either.
For those who have no understanding of the series, these are the stories of Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) who goes around the world solving ancient puzzles with such disregard for history that it makes historians cry. In Inferno Langdon wakes up in a strange hospital with no memory how he got there with that wonderful retrograde amnesia which is the Maccas of literary tropes (all pervasive, fundamentally unsatisfying, but everyone still does it). Soon he is off with Dr Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones) trying to stop a madman Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster) from releasing a virus that will kill 50% of the world’s population to help the planet out. So as far as setups go it’s not bad, however, it is not anything new, see National Treasure and the many films like it, and it does start to unravel a bit as the movie progresses.
So I do have to mention there are things of things with Inferno that did make it interesting to watch. Firstly, Inferno is simply set in some of the most beautiful locations in Europe, from Florence to Venice and in-between. Look your film could be a mess but if you’re filming around the Palazzo Vecchio or St Mark’s Basilica or Giardino di Boboli or that other place that is majestic but would be a spoiler to list, your film is going to be captivating. As well as this, Tom Hanks is one of this generations finest actors and you can see it here. I found Ben Foster as Bertrand Zobrist quite captivating bar his “I am a villain” name, and it’s always a pleasure to watch Irrfan Khan (Harry Sims) work. The film moves at a reasonable fast pace and does not waste time lingering around, though that may be because if the audience is given a moment to think then things start falling apart.
So while there are some great things about Inferno, there are also a lot of problems, I mean a lot of problems. So I am going to break this up into two sections, the first will be general issues, and the second we will get a bit more into the spoilery side of things. While this may just be a personal thing I am getting more and more tired of the shaky camera technique. It was sort of interesting at the start as it tied into Langdon’s head injury, but as the film continued it got more annoying, tripods people. This is amplified during many of the action set pieces, (which actually are not that frequent in Inferno though the run around more than a Matt Smith Doctor Who episode). The CGI in the film was usually quite good especially in the visions section, but there were some odd moments, like with the End of the opening chase and a drone that hoons around the place. One thing that is quite odd is that I’m sure the World Health Organisation would like to know that apparently, they are now a para-military organisation. Also, a number of plot points like the several teams chasing the leads felt underdeveloped and unnecessarily complex/vague and the less said about the shoehorned in romance subplots the better.
Ok so now we are getting into SPOILERS, so skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want to read any SPOILERS. So I didn’t really jell with the character of Dr Sienna Brooks and no I’m not just talking about [SEE HERE], even with that reveal there was something with the character or the characterisation that felt off. That big change up leading into the third act is meant to make you re-evaluate everything you have seen up to that point, and be a justification as to why something felt odd or why there was a lot of coincidence at the start of the film, but alas it feels more like a cheat for lazy writing. We see this lazy writing used throughout the film, the simple fact is that there is no way Langdon and Brooks would not have been caught at multiple time during this film. For example at one point they are in a security room and museum security officials see footage of Langdon stealing a priceless relic, only to be interrupted by the Carabinieri (military police) setting off the metal detectors as they enter the museum, those security officials then seem more concerned about the police in the museum and not with the person they just witnessed stealing an artefact and leave them in the security room with a pregnant staff member so they can escape. Let’s also talk about the final plan, so they needed C4 explosives so that they could rupture the bag containing the pathogen, realising it into the atmosphere for the people in the concert to breathe it in, like what is that bag made of? Diamonds? Just smash it, also it is highly doubtful that the pathogen would reach global infection as quickly as the movie suggests.
In the end, I think Inferno is the perfect example of, you can have a great director, you can have a great cast, you can have great locations, but none of that matters if the film is built on shoddy foundations with its story. Gee, I almost wonder if there is a parable about building one’s house upon sand we can use here, oh well guess not.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Directed by – Ron Howard
Screenplay by – David Koepp
Based on – Inferno by Dan Brown
Music by – Hans Zimmer
Starring – Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Omar Sy, Ben Foster, Sidse Babett Knudsen & Irrfan Khan
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; NZ: M; UK: 12A; USA: PG13