Review: Inferno

Stop me if you believe you’ve heard this before: a renowned billionaire has quite a pessimistic perspective on the state of the world at present and he has collected quite a following who share his vision and this billionaire alone has the means and drive to engineer a plan of action that he believes can heal all the wrongs of the world in order to bring order back to the world at large.

No, I’m not talking about a certain billionaire who is currently running for public office! I’m talking about a character named Bertrand Zobrist and his vision is more extreme than the billionaire you are probably thinking about.

Betrand Zobrist is a key player in the new cinematic Dan Brown adaptation titled Inferno, but from looking at him and listening to his rhetoric, you’d think he would be the next James Bond villain. He believes that overpopulation is the crucial factor as to why the world is spinning out of control; the cause for several cases of animal extinction, climate change, economic and political catastrophe, social unrest and his solution is derived straight out of the philosophies of the epic poet Dante himself: a plague that can eradicate virtually half of the world’s population.

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Image by Sony Pictures

In order to escape capture Zobrist committed suicide but in his final days he set his plan into action and procured a pawn who could see his machinations come to fruition: esteemed symbologist Robert Langdon, who cannot account for his actions in the last 48 hours and the person of interest for several covert organizations who are chasing him throughout Florence and Venice. Aided by Dr. Sienna Miller, Langdon must remember a past that was taken from him and thwart Zobrist’s scheme before billions of people are eradicated.

Inferno was a decent action movie but as I sat in the theater taking it all in, I was trying to figure out what was missing and how this could be better and it finally occurred to me when Inferno ended: this movie could have been a lot better if you substituted Robert Langdon for James Bond because Bond would be better equipped to handle stopping an extinction level event than a Harvard symbologist.

I will give director Ron Howard and screenwriter David Koepp credit for another attempt to bring a Dan Brown novel to the big screen and make it as suspenseful and action-packed as possible but let’s face facts here: this was a Dan Brown novel trying to wear James Bond’s clothes; at least that’s the way I saw it. Those who read Inferno prior to seeing it won’t have the best opinion of it, while others who did not read the book will find some redeeming value in the film; I find myself in the latter category but to be fair, considering The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons were not exactly cinematic grand slams, I didn’t expect Inferno to turn my world upside down going in.

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Image By U.S. Department of State, via Wikimedia Commons

Tom Hanks who is a few weeks removed from a solid performance in Sully, tries his best to make Langdon an action hero but in Inferno, his character is merely a pawn to characters with larger designs and that is simply wasteful to his talents. Felicity Jones is about to enjoy a very fruitful end to 2016 and her performance as Dr. Sienna Miller is as grounded as it can get, the rest of the supporting cast including Irrfan Khan, Omar Sy, Ben Foster, Sidse Babette Knudsen, Ana Ularu, Ida Darvish, make their marks then fade away as the picture tries to tie up every loose end possible.

Salvatore Totino’s cinematography is quite effective and the editing of Tom Elkins and Dan Hanley benefits off of using such striking imagery, especially when Langdon suffers from his visions and his unwilling participation through Dante’s perspective of hell.

Hans Zimmer provides the score to Inferno and he perhaps does more to lift this film up more than anyone by providing dramatic atmosphere to a film that has drama but doesn’t lacks staying power.

Peter Wenham’s production design, the art direction, the costumes, the visual effects, the sound; truth be told Inferno has solid and effective technical aspects to its production.

To wrap this up, I’ll be succinct: I didn’t hate Inferno but after watching it, I wished that it were remade and adapted to be a James Bond movie because let’s face it, the plot and the setting for Inferno fits the skillset for a character who can take more action in the story like Bond rather than Langdon and it was disappointing that Dan Brown orchestrated a plot like this instead of Sir Ian Fleming.

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