We’ve had two Dan Brown adaptations so far; borefest The Da Vinci Code in 2006 and the mundane Angels and Demons in 2009. Seven years later, director Ron Howard and Tom Hanks are back with Inferno, another religious-ish mystery with an end-of-the-world spin.
When Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) wakes up in hospital with head trauma, young doctor Sienna (Felicity Jones) has to help him when people try to attack him. From here, the pair try to figure out why, which soon becomes a very small part of a bigger picture.
Dan Brown’s books are legendary – even as someone who isn’t a keen reader, I know The Da Vinci Code. But his material has never translated well on to the screen and Inferno is no different. The film presents an outlandish mystery with intricate clues and twists, but never grips as hard as it should.
We watch as Langdon and Sienna work their way through scenic Florence, shamelessly advertising the tourist destinations every step of the way. Whilst the places they go are absolutely stunning, I wasn’t there for a travel brochure.
Hanks himself plays the role well; a genuine genius who has lost his greatest ally – his brain. Never seeming to doubt the material, his performance is confident and enthusiastic. Alas, his sidekick holds him back. Jones’ character is very poorly written, seemingly on the same wave length as Langdon every step of the way. Each revelation, each clue solved by her feels more like a silly Deus Ex Machina than a reasonable development.
That’s the thing though, we watch the pair get chased all over the world by the assassin-turned World Health Organisation (yup you read that right) and other groups. Not to say they aren’t as smart as our main leads, but somehow they figure out where they’re going every time. It’s an unrelenting game of cat-and-mouse, that evoked a yawn rather than a gasp.
Also, a dreadfully mismatched score will pester keen movie-goers. There’s chase sequences that have music running through it more suited to the likes of a Nicolas Winding Refn film or stylish indies like The Guest.
There are two standouts however that hold interest in times of dire need. Irrfan Khan plays the shady leader of ‘The Consortium’, an organisation out to get Langdon. Whilst we don’t see a lot of him, he steals every scene he’s in with a breezy, but ice cold performance.
But the highlight of Inferno comes in the form of Ben Foster’s character, Bertrand Zobrist, a psychopathic, delusional billionaire out to cure the world’s over population problem. Foster has been on a roll recently; just look at last year’s The Program and this year’s excellent Hell or High Water. He’s insanely likeable despite his crazy ideas, which makes each aspect of his performance compelling.
For a franchise that has three films under it’s belt, you’d think Ron Howard would see where it’s going wrong. The intriguing, wacky mysteries from the books never seem to shock and awe in the films, which begs the question – is film the right choice? Perhaps Dan Brown’s material is better suited to television, where we could get a closer, better handled look at what should be a mind blowing story. Or maybe it’s just time to leave Robert Langdon alone.
To sum it up…
Inferno should hopefully mark the end of a franchise which has never scored above its grand ideas to be anything other than mediocre.
Rating: Quite Dire
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Author: Cameron Frew