Sunday, October 30, 2016

Review: Inferno

Image courtesy of Columbia Pictures.
The third time is not exactly the charm for the Ron Howard adaptations of Dan Brown's Robert Langdon novels, but if there's one thing that keeps our interest throughout the narratively twisty thrillers it is the presence of Tom Hanks, who always adds the necessary gravitas to any proceedings.

Howard's "The Da Vinci Code" was a victim of its own hype. The 2006 film was based on a blockbuster novel and it was evident that the film would not live up to its expectations. That being said, it was a decent enough big budget thriller, although the second entry into the series - "Angels and Demons" - fell flat.

This third installment - "Inferno" - is the most preposterous of the three pictures and primarily focuses on delivering forgettable genre thrills. On the whole, it's not a bad film - I'd say it falls between the two previous entries in terms of quality - but a wholly forgettable one.

As the film opens, Hanks's Langdon awakens in a hospital with a head wound and a loss of memory. He soon finds himself fleeing from World Health Organization officials, agents of various sorts, a woman on a bike with a silencer and a variety of other shadowy figures. Langdon is accompanied by a young doctor (Felicity Jones), who flees with him from the hospital after the aforementioned biker woman fires a few rounds at the duo.

The film's plot involves a billionaire named Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster) who, at the film's beginning, leaps to his death from a tower in Italy after being pursued by an agent played by Omar Sy. We learn that Zobrist's cause du jour was thinning out the world's population to prevent a cataclysmic event down the road, so he, prior to his death, created the titular virus that will wipe out half of the planet's population.

Since this is a Dan Brown adaptation, Zobrist left clues to how the virus will be spread within Dante's Inferno, although I can't reveal to whom these clues were left without giving away some plot twists. Naturally, this type of mystery is in Langdon's wheelhouse, so it's up to him to travel around Italy and Turkey to discover how to stop the virus from being unleashed.

One of the picture's problems is that seemingly minor characters come to play larger roles throughout the film and we learn, at various points, whether they are good folks on Langdon's side or villains in disguise. The problem is that they all exist to move the film's labyrinthine plot forward and, therefore, do not register as human beings. So, the film's big reveals mostly result in shrugs rather than gasps.

It's always a pleasure to watch Tom Hanks, who elevates any material, although his primary function here is to spout explanatory dialogue. Some of the supporting players are fairly effective, especially Irrfan Khan as a leader in a shadowy group that is linked to Zobrist, and Jones, whose plucky performance makes her more than just a sidekick to Hanks's Langdon. But "Inferno" is mostly concerned with cheap thrills and plot twists and the result is a series that was only moderately intriguing from the start on its way to running out of gas.

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