Inferno is a picture where everything from exposition to resolution feels like a plot device. It feels that way because that’s the reality. Dan Brown’s Professor Robert Langdon rose to prominence when the nation fell head over heels for The Da Vinci Code. The expert of religious iconography and symbology is famed for globetrotting around the world, decrypting ancient codes and puzzles and foiling international conspiracies. In his third film outing, Inferno, the story is much the same, but the ways and means feel like nothing so much and Bond-villain level over complicating.
We open on voiceover of a man promising to leave a trail to Inferno — the solution to all of the problems man has created. All the while, on-screen, we watch that man (Ben Foster) fleeing through the streets of Italy before jumping to his own death. Cut to Robert Langdon in a hospital. Utterly disoriented, bleeding, vulnerable. His doctor, Sienna (Felicity Jones) ,slowly fills him on what’s happened, he’s suffered a head wound, his recollections will be fuzzy — which is all he’s given to explain why he’s in Florence when his last memories had him in Boston. Then comes the cop who isn’t a cop to attempt to wipe him out and the swift, reflexive action of his doctor to save him. She’s young, British and brilliant, and agrees to give him safe harbor as he attempts to riddle out where he’s been and why people are trying to kill him.
When a clue neither of them can resist reveals the path ahead, Sienna gets caught up in Langdon’s desperate race to unravel the riddle before Inferno, and the hell it will unleash, is let loose on humanity. There’s beautiful scenery and fun puzzles and Tom Hanks bringing the charm as he does. Felicity Jones has a few moments of bringing wonderful emotion to a fairly clinical character. But for a story where the stakes are so high, Inferno frequently feels as if it’s dragging. Perhaps because everything about it feels increasingly unnecessary as the facts are revealed. At one point Langdon laments that he doesn’t have a copy of the book, and Sienna replies that she generally turns to Google — something that could save a lot of screen time if more people wised up. There are the twists and turns and betrayals but each of them only serves to make the action feel the more contrived.
Inferno loses its suspense and its reason in the logic. It’s a condition that may be par for the course for action-thrillers, but it’s problematic when your hero succeeds or fails based on brain power and intellect.
Director: Ron Howard
Writer: Dan Brown (story by), David Koepp (screenplay)
Runtime: 2h, 1m
Release Date: October 28, 2016
Photo Credit: Jonathan Prime /© 2016 CTMG, Inc.