“Inferno” Movie Review


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     It has gotten to the point now where Professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), the hyper smart Harvard symbologist in Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” & “Angels & Demons”, has to be asking himself whether or not he’s the John McClane of religious based crisis scenarios.  I say that because any rational man couldn’t possibly believe he would find himself in such a wild predicament three separate times, but that’s exactly where Dan Brown has positioned his character in the latest film “Inferno”, a well thought out globe hopping thrill ride possessing a significant boost in pace when compared to its two predecessors.

     Returning along with Hanks for the third time is director Ron Howard, whose immediate credibility brings a level of expectation to the proceedings in which the audience anticipates seeing the work of a known master craftsman.  To that extent, Howard delivers a unique take on the material, utilizing a narrative that moves along quickly as the stakes get higher in every scene.  “Angel & Demons” scribe David Koepp returns as well, providing consistency amongst the characters and solid dialogue that helps flesh out Brown’s thought provoking premise.

     “Inferno” begins with a series of nightmarish visuals shown as if they're being viewed through a foggy almost hypnotic lens.  Perhaps they are merely visions accompanying Langdon as he has obviously had a bad night himself, waking up in a hospital emergency room, a bullet having apparently grazed his head, and not a single memory as to what happened to him.  Treating him is Dr. Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), who tells him he arrived a few hours before, but has no information as to how he got there.  But then, in a scene right out of Steven Seagal’s 1990 coma cop action fest “Hard to Kill”, a police woman shows up down the hall and kills one of the nurses in her way as she beelines toward Langdon’s room gun in hand.  Dr. Brooks is able to hold off the attacker by simply closing and locking the door, and eventually the two make it safety, but you get the idea the plot is about to thicken.

     As is standard in the series, the plot centers around a particular religious belief and its context in the real world, which in this case is the first part of Dante Alighieri’s 14th century epic poem “Inferno”, which is depicted in the film by the image of a painting Langdon is in possession of, but doesn't remember where he got it.  The image, which is a visualization of the Nine circles of Hell is viewed by Langdon and Brooks on the wall of her apartment.  Langdon, being the symbologist in the room begins to notice additions to the picture, which happen to match up with the visions he was having in the hospital.  Soon, the duo begins to put together what they believe is a hidden message indicating a plague is about to be unleashed on civilization, but by who? And how?  

     The second act of “Inferno” sees Langdon and Brooks moving from location to location looking for clues at museums in Florence, and secret hideaways in Venice.  All the while, they are being tracked by law enforcement, the World Health Organization, as well as others who seem intent on killing them.  Howard stages a number of sequences where the outcomes and methods used to thwart those chasing them may seem a bit too convenient or coincidental, as they seem to escape a few too many times when completely surrounded or cornered.  One of the laughs you’ll often get is Langdon’s recommendation to take the various tours offered at these museums as a way to account for his vast on the fly knowledge of the deep inner workings of some of the oldest buildings in the world.  It does help that many of these scenes are driven by yet another fantastic Hans Zimmer score.

     If there is one complaint here its the casting of Ben Foster as eccentric billionaire Bertrand Zobrist in a role he doesn’t seem suited for, nor is he utilized enough to make the kind of impact the character needs to make.  His reasoning for wanting to reset the human population by way of unleashing a virus isn’t given the kind of screen time necessary to establish him as actually having a cause he truly believes in.  Without that foundation for evil being present, it leaves Langdon and Brooks in a constant mode of hypothesis with nothing much else to go on.  In a way, that lends to a significant amount of mystery and intrigue, but ultimately we have a pretty good idea how it will all end, if for no other reason we’ve seen this movie before.  All that said, Howard and Koepp successfully weave several notable plot twists into the story, many of which you won’t see coming, that help neutralize the predictable outcome with several characters who might not be who they seem.  GRADE: B-