Thursday, May 18, 2017

Movie Review: INFERNO (2016) Starring Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones


Director: Ron Howard
Genre: Action, Adventure, Crime
Starring: Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Ben Foster, Omar Sy, Irrfan Khan, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Ana Ularu
Runtime: 121 min
Rating: PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, disturbing images, some language, thematic elements and brief sensuality
Purchasing Links: DVD, Blu-ray

Read the review after the jump.


Review by Popa Razvan

Tom Hanks and director Ron Howard return to the franchise that made them a lot of money and give us a new adventure featuring Dan Brown's very knowledgeable and surprisingly resourceful professor Robert Langdon. Was the effort worth it ? I wish I could say it was.

Based on Brown's novel of the same name, "Inferno" was chosen as the third installment in the series instead of "The Lost Symbol", which was the third novel in the Langdon series following "Angels & Demons" and "The Da Vinci Code". Not that it matters much in terms of chronology. It's not like Langdon undergoes any serious character developement in both the books and movies.

Inferno (2016) Image 1

As with any Brown novel, we have another earth-shattering conspiracy worthy of following in the footsteps of secret societies and historical cover-ups: the real-world theory of humanity's extinction due to overpopulation. Here's where the obligatory madman comes in, the billionaire geneticist Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster), who is believed to have engineered a deadly virus which he intends to release and solve the overpopulation problem in the same way that the plagues of the Middle Ages helped, he figures, reduce the world's population to a more manageable size.

Robert Langdon (Hanks) finds himself once again in the midst of a convoluted intrigue that involves a shadowy group of mercenaries, the World Health Organization, a pretty doctor (Felicity Jones) and a trail of hints inspired by Dante's "Inferno". The movie promises lots of running around as Langdon gets chased by the many interested parties, and it predictably leads to plenty of twists (some less original than others), and the obligatory history lessons. These are actually the things I always enjoyed about these Dan Brown adaptations. I occasionally crave a ridiculously over-the-top plot now and then, and yet while "Inferno" checks off all of the above, it's really not as interesting as the previous installments.

Inferno (2016) Image 2

"Inferno" exists in a sort of purgatory of Dan Brown adaptations. Its premise is not quite as bonkers as that of "The Da Vinci Code", and its locations somehow aren't as fascintating as the Vatican and its secrets in "Angels and Demons". This results in a bit of a dull ride at times, punctuated by a few eye-catching locations, some of them criminally underused as this third installment seems curiously eager to not cross the 2 hour mark, unlike the previous two films. After reading the book, I looked forward to having Howard and the amazing director of photography Salvatore Totino visualize the book's many interesting locations. Unfortunately, budget cuts probably had something to do with the film's underwhelming look and shorter running time, as the production costs of "Inferno" are about half of what the studio spent on "Angels & Demons".

The one thing that could have been more interesting than running around locations of historical significance, was the overpopulation theory, which seems downplayed in the film, especially by changing the one thing that really made the book stand out, its ending. The ending as written by Brown was an intriguingly complex circumstance that would have at least warranted a conversation or two after the end credits started rolling. As it is, the two-hour chase concludes like any other generic thriller, complete with one or two unnecessary explosions.

Inferno (2016) Image 3

As far as the acting goes, despite having a talented ensemble, none of the actors stand out in any particular way. They're all effective, but honestly, any other actors could have filled their shoes and you wouldn't have known the difference. It's not like the franchise is known for its complex characters. Even Hanks, a Langdon veteran, never quite made the character his own in a way that you could say "Yes, Hanks is Langdon and no one could ever play him like he did". Part of the problem could be Dan Brown's lackluster characterization, a challenge to any actor, regardless of experience.

I rarely take the opportunity to deride a film score, but Hans Zimmer's work in this third installment irks me. While the score is appropriate for the film's many scenes of tension, it lacks the intellectual cleverness of the previous two scores. Zimmer's sound design approach to scoring in recent years has worked wonders in movies like "Inception" or "Interstellar", but here it just feels wrong. Going all electronic is a cheap way to underscore a film that features so much history and culture. An effective but unremarkable score isn't that big of a problem, but the abscence of an imposing score becomes a problem in a movie that is already pretty lifeless. It's a bit of a fanboy rant, I admit, but I can't help but feel disappointed by Zimmer's phoned-in effort that robbed viewers of one more awesome theme to add to the first film's "Chevaliers de Sangreal" and the second's "160 bpm". Perhaps the score fell victim to the budget cuts I mentioned above. Either way, I feel this is a missed opportunity, but since it is minimalistically effective, I won't count it as a negative.

Inferno (2016) Image 4

While I still managed to have some fun watching "Inferno", it's a long way from being what it could have been. The franchise was never intended to be a masterpiece of the adventure genre, but it at least squeezed some fun from its crazy premisses. This second sequel had the worst box-office results of the three Langdon films, and there's a very good reason for that. Even for fans of the novel it might prove to be too much of a disappointment.



  • The familiar brand of wonky Dan Brown conspiracies and history lessons.
  • The overpopulation theory is a great starter for a conspiracy thriller.

  • Most of its interesting themes are downplayed or sidestepped
  • Familiar twists
  • The book's ending was better
  • Unimpressive casting and forgettable characters



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