Intrigue, deception, betrayal and running through ancient buildings oh yes it’s time once again for another adventure with star tom hanks and director Ron Howard in the third adaptation of Dan Brown’s novels with this go around being Inferno (Sony/Columbia Pictures, Running Time 2 hours 1 minute). Those familiar with the previous iterations The DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons have come to know the high jinks Professor Robert Langdon can make. But does it tie up everything else cohesively to make it an enjoyable film for general audiences?
While the first two movies have played well overseas, declining domestic audiences gave Sony hesitation in giving the green light after 2009’s Demons. It wasn’t until a production budget at a more feasible rate was agreed upon (a reported $75 million by Box Office Mojo) did this movie ever see the light of day. Although the scaled down presentation was rarely evident on screen, the same could not be said for some of the other aspects of this movie.
The previous Dan Brown adaptations saw it success through its interesting religious narratives all the while Hanks’ portrayal of Langdon was executed with competence by a veteran actor whose effectiveness in keeping the audience’s interest throughout his adventures in the first two films cannot be understated. This time around, Langdon wakes up in an Italian hospital room with very little memory, plenty of hallucinations and only an extremely resourceful doctor (Star Wars Rogue One’s Felicity Jones) to help keep him alive. As he begins to piece the puzzles of his recent past, he realizes he has become an unwilling victim in a larger plot conceived by billionaire Bertrand Zobrist (played by Ben Foster) to rid humanity of many of its ills in regards to overpopulation.
As the characters played by hanks and Jones try to outrun the authorities, drones, killers the World Health Organization and a deadline leading to catastrophic events, the movie itself falls into many of the same tropes (for better or worse) its predecessors fall into. It’s on this occasion however that Inferno, instead of feeling like an old t-shirt that still fits comfortably patterns itself more to like an old sweater than has long worn out its welcome and is ready to be sent out to donation. Hanks performance never seems to escape the cloudiness he was asked to embellish on in the earlier part of the film as his enthusiasm for playing the role again never gets conveyed on screen (and after three films with a bulk of it in Italy, would it have killed the screenwriters to have his character become fluent in Italian?). Ditto for Howard’s direction which often can be viewed as a “been there, seen that, done that already” scenario as nothing in this movie will have the audience seeing something they haven’t viewed before if they watched the previous two films.
What makes matters even worse is the incessant need to disguise virtually everyone’s true motives on whether or not they want to stop or assist in seeing this impending catastrophe come to life…and yes that means virtually everyone. In the previous two films betrayal and a deception of true intentions were a key part of the previous films but that focus was targeted on only a few key players. With Inferno, the character deception becomes so widespread that audiences are left to feel numb by the end. The commanding presence of Jones in the film, almost as a warmup to her starring role coming in December is easy to pick up on even just minutes into the film. Despite not being developed as strongly in the film as many would have hoped, it’s clearly evident why she earned such a high profile role in the Star Wars saga. Not all the performances however were lackluster as Irrfan Khan’s portrayal as a head of a secretive security firm kept things interesting and livened things up almost to the very end.
Caught within its own pitfalls created by the previous two films in the series, Inferno fails to deliver something new and instead of being an inspired, high-octane thriller sadly becomes instead an unremarkable viewing experience. Does the world come to an end as we know it or does Professor Robert Langdon get another opportunity to save the day through his mastery of religious and historical knowledge? After watching this film unfortunately, the audience may not even care what that ultimate fate ends up being.