Inferno: Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Watch


Tom Hanks regrets too late.

When it comes to bad movies, there are bad movies, really bad movies, and movies that leave you wondering why the heck you decided to waste two hours sitting through them. Inferno doesn’t even try to break out of the third group. Aside from being painfully implausible and all but unrelated to its own title, this latest Dan Brown movie lacks any kind of substance whatsoever. You can’t help but feel sorry – not just for the otherwise good actors who had to endure all this but mainly Dante, a great poet whose work has been shamelessly twisted and exploited to promote such trash.

Inferno is the third movie about Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), the one-and-only Harvard professor of “symbology” who previously discovered Jesus’ long-lost descendant and protected Rome from the wrath of antimatter. This time around, he initially finds himself waking up in a hospital in Florence, bleeding and completely unable to remember why he first came to Italy. After being mysteriously shot at by an Italian police officer, he’s promptly escorted by the doctor-on-duty, a young Englishwoman named Sierra Brooks (Felicity Jones), to her apartment, where Langdon finds he’s inexplicably come into possession of a map of Dante’s original conception of hell. With some examination, he realizes this map provides a clue to the location of a virus artificially created by a rich bioengineer named Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster) to deal with the problem of human overpopulation. Needless to say, a whole host of black-market dealers and followers of Zobrist badly want this virus for themselves. Langdon still has no idea how he got into this mess, but it’s now up to him to ensure Zobrist’s creation gets destroyed before it’s too late.

The first thing you should know: most of this movie, as with everything related to Dan Brown, is total nonsense. Dr. Brooks, aside from being able to read The Divine Comedy in Italian more quickly and fluently than 90% of native Italian speakers, spends every single high-speed chase scene running in heels – and gets away every time. Langdon somehow manages to break in to multiple museums and steal extremely precious artifacts without tipping off a single alarm or guard. Both of them are conveniently brilliant enough to solve the many vague, archaic “riddles” (read: cryptic references to obscure parts of history) they encounter within mere seconds, leaving us to put up with the movie’s flimsy explanations about artist X and author Y while they ricochet from Florence to Venice to Istanbul like tourists on steroids. And let’s not forget the conveniently dangerous biological weapon (for all those times you need to quickly kill four or five billion people), conveniently omnipotent secret organization (for all those times you need to stage a shootout or two), and conveniently well-designed drug (for all those times you need to give a guy 72-hour amnesia and make him think he was mugged and shot in the head) that serve as the movie’s nonsensical means of explaining away the plot’s flagrant neglect of common sense.

Even if you somehow manage to stomach all of this, you still run into the problem that Inferno isn’t very interesting. Dante and Italy end up being mere window dressing to a premise that’s really only another story about stopping the apocalypse. The movie consistently attaches more importance to showcasing Tom Hanks’ much-lauded running abilities than tackling the questions it indirectly raises about overpopulation and human vice. After a bunch of people get conveniently killed off midway through, the last hour is nothing more than a prolonged chase chock full of convenient slips by the villains and convenient, just-in the-nick-of-time saves by the heroes. And it all comes crashing downwards in an ending that’s both ridiculously predictable – spoiler alert, Langdon wins – and all but impossible to follow, since the camera jerks around in overdrive to the point that we can’t tell who’s doing what to whom.

On a final note, the movie’s characters literally must have been taken straight out of Flatland. A week ago, I called the characters in Se7en uninteresting, but Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt are paragons of three-dimensionality compared to the people here. No matter how hard Tom Hanks tries, Robert Langdon is a stereotypical know-it-all sleuth. He teams up with a stereotypical “long-lost” romantic interest, faces a stereotypical doomsday-prophet bad guy, and fights a bunch of stereotypically “cool” hitmen. With the exception of Dr. Brooks, we don’t learn enough about any of the characters to care whether they live or die. And although the story does delve into Brooks’ past, we learn about her life through such abruptly melodramatic and poorly set-up “reveal moments” that it’s obvious the screenwriter cares more about cheap plot twists than actual development.

This movie legitimately sucks. It’s uninteresting, unoriginal, undeveloped, unsubtle, and often just plain old unbelievable. Ardent Dan Brown fans will inevitably enjoy the whole circus, but most of us will be forced to rack our brains wondering how the likes of Hanks, Jones, and Ron Howard could have been compelled to embark on such a disastrous project, especially after the terrible reception the previous two movies got. Next time you make the umpteenth dumb movie about people running around to save the world, Hollywood, please don’t use the title of an actual work of art. In the end, you’ll only be fooling yourselves.

Inferno (2016)

Starring: Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Omar Sy

Running Time: 124 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Produced by: Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Michael De Luca, Andrea Giannetti

Directed by: Ron Howard

Written by: David Koepp

Image from here.