By: Muneeb Arshid
The master of exposition is back!
Here’s the thing, I can understand the level of intrigue for the first two films in the Dan Brown novel series. The insanity behind “The Da Vinci Code” back in oh… 2006 was completely reasonable. Illuminati talk had people abuzz about those innocent looking triangle shapes that everyone was seemingly finding in every nook and cranny… and still are. That was 10 years ago. We’ve since moved on to Angels & Demons, which got a lot of flack at the time and, well, it wasn’t that bad at all. Okay, I’m feeling the cringe after writing that statement, and I have to retract it right away. Yeah, that film was pretty bad. But now, 7 years later, we’ve got another in the series and it’s relatively simple to discuss its quality.
Yes, Tom Hanks is back as Dr Robert Langdon, professor of “symbolololology” in Inferno. The story goes a little like this: Langdon has seemingly been caught up in a dust-up with the World Health Organization (WHO) and various other enforcement agencies. He is brought into a hospital, on the brink of death following a narrow escape from a shady organization. At the hospital, he is helped out by Dr Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones) who gets Langdon back into walking shape and is eager to help him find out what the good Doctor has got himself caught up with. Brooks is a fan of Langdon, who instantly recognizes him as he is dropped off at the hospital, giving the reasoning (in one of the numerous expositional dialogues) that she wants to be involved in the “symbol-solving”. From there, the two go on a mission to figure out the mystery of a “Faraday pointer” found amongst the belongings of Langdon at the hospital.
Along the way, the WHO is very interested in being involved in finding Langdon as they believe that the Faraday pointer is a key to some sort of biological device that is believed to be the brain-child of mega-billionaire Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster). Two members of WHO are integral in this investigation. Christoph Bouchard (Omar Sy) and Elizabeth Sinskey (Sidse Babett Knudsen) become entangled in finding Langdon and neutralizing the threat. However, in good Dan Brown novelization form, we are explained and over-explained every little detail with such ferocity that you start wondering whether deciding to watch this movie ever was worth it. The Faraday pointer is eventually explained to be a representation of Dante’s Inferno in map form, which gives clues to Langdon and Brooks where to find this “super-virus-biological-weapon-thingy”. The rest of the film is what Ron Howard has become famous for in these three films. The excessive running/chasing/walking-and-talking scenes that are littered throughout the film. And it’s exactly in that order for the three films now. If The Da Vinci Code was running-and-talking, Angels & Demons had progressed to full-on chasing-and-explaining with flying pontiffs. Inferno is a much tamer beast with only some light brisk walking-and-talking. That’s not to say that the chase sequences aren’t there. Of course there are, how else could this be a Dan Brown adaptation without them? However, they are not at the campy level that Angels & Demons had taken on. There is an absolutely golden quote from Sinskey to Langdon towards the end of the film that sums up the entire series thus far that is along the lines of “Langdon talking too much”, which had the entire theatre cracking up and letting out an air of relief.
Now, one character who absolutely steals the show is Irrfan Khan‘s Harry Sims, the leader of a private security operation who has a personal stake in the “biological warfare matter”. The great thing about his character is that his character is a wonderful contrast with the boring nature of Hanks’ Langdon and brings a sense of relief and playfulness to the movie. His character feels as if he is massively aware of what is going on beyond the fourth wall and surprisingly very metacritical of the entire story and the film to an extent. As a fan of the YouTube channel “CinemaSins”, I can already see that Irrfan Khan’s character is going to be very good at “sinning” their own movie. From the point of view of a Bollywood fan (co-Film Lawyer Samar Khan absolutely adores Irrfan’s work as well), it is great to see Khan succeeding in his part-transition over to Hollywood. I would argue that his character is the best in this film, and that is saying something when you’ve got the great Tom Hanks as your co-star.
Now, this film has a bunch of twists interwoven into the plot which is so comically ham-fisted that you actually do start enjoying the movie….slightly! As much as I would like to spoil the contents of the film, I’ll refrain from doing so for now. However, one of them does catch you by surprise, which in the nature of a twist, does work. The other, however, not so much, especially because it involves one of the main characters of the film, who we have spent an hour learning their entire backstory through “Basil Exposition”. Looking back at it, the twist is absolutely glaring at you right from the get-go, but when it happened in the theatre, I swear the entire theatre did a little half-scoff, half-laugh emotion which said it all for this film.
Hans Zimmer fans: beware! Okay, I’ll admit I like Zimmer’s work as a composer but Inferno’s score feels very cheap and wrongly-placed when you compare it to some of his greatest works. It’s not even the fact that it is used in a dud of a film like Inferno; rather, some of the musical decisions are very odd especially from someone who is seen as a maestro. One particular issue is during the “reveal” scenes, for example when Langdon finally makes it to the next clue and he is just on the brink of opening said clue. The score picks up in such a TV show like fashion as if Langdon were about to open up a clue in Venice and Tom Hanks was starring on Criminal Minds or NCIS. This essentially gives the feeling that the film should have been a TV movie instead of wasting our time on the big screen.
There are definite issues with Inferno, none the least being Tom Hanks. For a guy who has hand-picked quality roles for himself over the years, it’s very surprising that he would go back to this series once again. However, knowing that the film has not done as well with the audience (probably due to the fact that people have forgotten about the Da Vinci Code craze), maybe we won’t be seeing another one of these poorly written Dan Brown adaptations anytime soon.
We, the team at TFL, give Inferno an “expositionally” filled grade of D (4.5/10).