Movie Review: Inferno
By Matthew Huntley
November 3, 2016
Inferno is the kind of movie you seek out when you want to watch something intelligent but have the movie do most of the thinking for you. Like its predecessors, The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, also based on Dan Brown novels and directed by Ron Howard, Inferno is slick, capable and pretty to look at, and despite an absurd and labyrinthine plot, it's more or less easy to follow, probably because the characters are always giving us the play by play and telling us exactly what we need to know and when (hence it's thinking for us).
At their core, Brown's stories have more in common with mainstream police procedurals than high-intelligence crime dramas, which is fine, because the results are involving and entertaining just the same. This is mindless escapism posing as something greater, but because we get the sense the filmmakers knows this, and therefore don't allow the movie take itself too seriously, we let it lead us and simply enjoy all the exposition and spectacle.
As routine as Inferno is with regards to its structure and execution, one thing that's different (and refreshing) about it is we finally learn something personal about the central character, Robert Langdon, who's once again played by Tom Hanks. Hitherto now, the Harvard Professor of Symbology and author has mostly functioned as brilliant cryptologist and makeshift detective without having much of a personality of his own. In the first two movies, his role was to follow a series of clues in order to prevent a crisis, yet he remained rather stoic and unaffected by what he found. Hanks was perfectly serviceable as Langdon, but because the character was so dry, we didn't get the sense Hanks really owned the role like he usually does and the character may been better suited for a different actor. This time around, David Koepp's screenplay fleshes Langdon out more, lending him a history, even a love interest, and it's these new aspects of Langdon's nature that Hanks imbues with his usual nuance and credibility.
When the movie opens, Robert lies in a hospital bed in Florence, Italy and is having nightmarish visions of a plague: people walking around with their heads on backwards; men wearing plague masks (black eyes, crow's beak); a mysterious woman with her face covered by a scarf; fires burning, etc. Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), the young British doctor treating Robert, tells him he arrived at the hospital with with no identification and a bullet wound to the head. Now he's having trouble remembering things, including the name of coffee, let alone standing and walking.
Things get worse when a female assassin disguised as a cop (Ana Ularu) enters the hospital and starts shooting at Robert with an intent to kill. What could the gentle and kind Robert possibly know that would make anyone want to kill him? Could it have something to do with the recent suicide death of Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster), the young billionaire and medical engineer who threw himself off a tower at the beginning movie? Or is Robert's condition linked to Agent Bouchard (Omar Sy) of the World Health Organization, who was chasing Zobrist just before he jumped?