Author Dan Brown has published four novels featuring Robert Langdon and Inferno is the third film adapted from these novels by Director Ron Howard. Is this the best of the bunch or is it time to retire this character?
Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) awakens in an Italian hospital with a head wound and no memory of the last 48 hours. He is being tended to by Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), but they are soon attacked by an assassin disguised as a police officer, Vayentha (Ana Ularu). The pair escape and aside from having horrific visions of a plague-ravaged city, Langdon discovers that he is carrying a tube that can only be opened by his thumbprint. Inside the tube is a mini projector that references Dante’s Inferno, which would correspond with his hallucinations. The clues point to Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster), a man who believes that the world is dangerously overpopulated and he has created a virus that will wipe out half of the world’s population. The problem is, Zobrist is dead and his plan has already been put into action. Langdon must solve the puzzle to find the virus and prevent it from being released. However, due to his faulty memory, he can’t be sure who to trust as other agents are also interested in obtaining this virus for a multitude of reasons. Will Langdon succeed or will this movie have the unhappiest of endings?
Of course, a huge problem with these films is that you know that Langdon isn’t going to die, so you know that, yes, he’ll probably succeed in stopping the virus. This is where Howard and Screenwriter David Koepp should have stuck more closely to Brown’s source material. In the novel, the virus is designed to sterilize a third of the population—still a lot of pseudo-science, but at least it keeps the threat viable. There is still tension, because no one wants to see billions of people get wiped out by a sickening virus, but you know that if the hero is anywhere around there without a bio suit to protect him, there’s a good chance that bomb, virus, whatever is not going off. So, while Brown’s books aren’t terribly good in of themselves, here is one point where he got it right over the filmmakers. There is a place where both Brown and the filmmakers got the story wrong, wrong, wrong, but that will require a dose of SPOILERS to discuss properly. I usually try to avoid this, but this single aspect of the film utterly destroys the story.
HEAVY SPOILERS AHEAD
So, it turns out that Sienna was an ally and lover of Zobrist’s. She was so trusted by him that he says, “If anything happens to me,” and entrusts her with completing his work. Then he forces her to figure it out through a puzzle game, which is what necessitates Langdon’s involvement in the first place. WTF? If he really wanted her to complete his work and release the virus, why not give her the number of a safety deposit box that contains the location of the virus? Why go through all this trouble? Oh right, they needed a story for the novel and screenplay. Now, in the novel—according to Wikipedia—it looks like Sienna’s role is a little murkier, but her relationship to Zobrist exists and in the film, it completely renders the movie as a whole, pointless.
END SPOILERS, BUT THE GIST IS, DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME WITH THIS MOVIE
Aside from some bad digital effects during Langdon’s hallucinations, Inferno is a technically well-made film. It’s just that the story problems make the whole endeavor worthless. There is also a lot of convenience throughout that was a little hard to believe. Also, while the editor of the film’s trailer should never get work again—the way it was edited made the whole film look like a shoddily thrown together TV movie—it did give away a lot of key moments and the uniqueness of the locations made it easy to know that certain scenes were coming up. Yes, you could say, “Then don’t watch trailers,” but it’s hard to avoid them when you see as many films as I do. The acting, on the other hand, is quite good.
Tom Hanks delivers a solid performance as Langdon, even if the character himself is pretty bland. I mean, he finally gets an age-appropriate love interest in Sidse Babett Knudsen’s Elizabeth Sinskey, an officer for the World Health Organization, and he talks himself out of being with her. Jones and Foster are good here and Omar Sy is fine as another WHO agent, but for me, the star of the show was Irrfan Khan as the head of a mysterious security agency working for Zobrist. He was great and it made me wish he had gotten more of a chance to shine in another blockbuster he was in recently, Jurassic World. Get this man into a Star Wars film, stat!
Overall, Inferno’s premise—a villain who wants to massively reduce the world’s population—and action were pretty good, but felt more at home in a James Bond film and Robert Langdon is not James Bond. However, a decent premise can’t protect a film from a story-crippling plot twist. As soon as that twist hits, you’re left thinking, “Why was I even watching this?” It ruins the movie, because it makes it all pointless. I can’t deny that this is, for the most part, a well-made film and that most everyone does a good job, but this fatal plot hole destroys the entire film.