Inferno (Tom Hanks) - DVD Review
Review by Rob Carnevale
THE greatest puzzle surrounding Tom Hanks’ latest foray into Dan Brown territory is just how these films continue to get made.
If 2006’s The Da Vinci Code offered a certain hokey charm that was as much fuelled by the religious controversy surrounding as it was by seeing one of the world’s biggest [and nicest] movie stars run around Paris searching for clues hidden amid the world’s greatest artworks while being pursued by a killer albino monk , then 2009’s Angels & Demons showed that the novelty value of the basic premise was quick to wear off.
Alas, the lessons haven’t been learned in Inferno, which again finds Hanks’s Professor Robert Langdon, the world’s pre-eminent symbolist, once more called upon to solve a series of clues in order to save the world from being decimated by a man-made plague.
The plague in question has been created by biotech billionaire Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster), who has become obsessed with humanity’s imminent demise due to over-population. Hence, if the Black Death caused a naturally created thinning out that also sparked the Renaissance, then what good could potentially come from a man-made virus designed to offer the planet a chance of survival?
Rather than unleashing the virus as a random act of terrorism, however, Zobrist commits suicide and hides it, prompting the World Health Organisation (WHO) to engage Langdon to solve the clues needed to locate its whereabouts.
But Langdon himself is in trouble. As the film opens, he is lying in a Florence hospital with a gunshot graze to the head, suffering from visions of the end of the world, possibly as the result of an injection he has been given. A female assassin is after him, and a kind doctor (Felicity Jones’s Sienna) offers him sympathetic support, particularly given her past passion for the work of Dante.
With everyone on their tail and unsure of who to trust, Langdon and Sienna inevitably go on the run across Florence and other parts of Italy in another race-against-time.
Early on, returning director Ron Howard imbues his film with a keen sense of disorientation that keeps you hooked. The visions of the impending apocalypse are harrowing (and 12A stretching) and the sheer breathless pace of the chase means you’re working as hard as Langdon to keep up.
But as things begin to take shape, the realisation quickly sets in that the film is running around in circles. Langdon and Sienna keep finding themselves in seemingly impossible to escape situations that then revolve around a secret door, while the so-called high brow puzzle-solving is difficult to care about and usually involves people staring at fantastic paintings with confusion etched across their faces for a couple of minutes at a time.
Perhaps worse, the duplicity that supposedly offers clever twists during the third act fails to deliver the kind of gasps of awe they are designed to; merely groans of indifference. Part of this has to do with the lack of any real character building the film offers, which even extends to Hanks. Simply put, there is very little that Hanks can do with the character, who struggles to be as charismatic as the actor normally allows or as interesting.
Jones, for her part, offers a feisty but highly unlikely ally, Foster isn’t afforded enough screen time to provide a credible villain (at least The Da Vinci Code provided Langdon with a couple of worthy adversaries), while the chasing pack – including Omar Sy’s WHO operative and Irrfan Khan’s shady businessman prone to sinister deeds – are also poorly sketched characters. Indeed, in the case of Khan’s character, the question of who he is working for or why is never really answered.
Come the final Istanbul-set final act, in which all parties converge in an attempt to either trigger or avert the release of the virus, things have become so ridiculous that any tension is dissipated either by yawns or – if you’ve had the temerity to keep up – laughter.
Indeed, the though occurs that Zobrist has concocted the kind of overly elaborate world-ending plan that a Bond villain usually concocts to get rid of 007, with similarly predictable results. The only problem is that this normal last act scenario is, with Inferno, stretched out across a two-hour movie.
Hence, despite the presence of an A-list cast, some fancy locations and some slick direction, Inferno is actually a very poor movie, hamstrung by the absurd nature of the source material.
Running time: 2hrs 1min
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: February 20, 2017