The tagline on the posters for Inferno proclaim: “The DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons were just the beginning”. After tracing the bloodline of Jesus Christ then saving the Roman Catholic Church, respectively, that really only leaves one thing for Robert Langdon: save the world.
The film begins with a TED Talk-style lecture by crazed billionaire Bertrand Zorbist (we know he’s crazed because Ben Foster plays him with standard-issue unblinking intensity) warning of the perils of the world’s rapidly-growing population, crosscut with flashes of him being chased through the streets by Bouchard (Omar Sy), an agent of unspecified allegiance, before throwing himself off a tower.
Our favourite everyman Tom Hanks is back as professor Robert Langdon, this time inexplicably finding himself in a hospital in Florence with a head injury, temporary amnesia, and suffering from grotesque visions of suffering and human deformity. At the hospital, Langdon is tended to by doctor Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything), a young, pretty, super genius herself who – surprise – has a thing for puzzles. This isn’t a spoiler because this is all explained to us in the broadest possible dialogue, within the first 10 minutes. This is a Ron Howard film, after all.
No sooner does Langdon come to, than he is shot at by an implacable Carabinieri officer. Soon Langdon and Brooks are in race to stop a deadly virus from wiping out half the world’s population, using Dante’s Inferno as the driving clue. The World Health Organisation becomes involved, as well as The Consortium, a shadowy super-powerful private security firm run by Harry Sims. The ensuing adventure takes us on a tiki tour of Europe’s museums and historical sites.
Is your head spinning yet? Enjoying this movie requires one to not so much suspend one’s disbelieve, but to hold it at gunpoint, force it to sit down and insist that it just be quiet.
The film has a strong supporting cast: Sidse Babett Knudsen lights up the screen, and Irrfan Khan delivers his dialogue with the ripeness that it deserves (he is definitely having the most fun out of everyone).
The failing of this film lies in the blandness of the characters, and shallowness of this story. The dialogue consists mainly of Langdon and Brooks explaining the plot to each other whilst looking at historical artifacts, and the twists throughout the film are so predictable and that it’s really more accurate to describe them as U-Turns. There will always be a place for dumb action films, but how much longer can they be sold to us in the guise of a thriller?
It’s hard to feel any emotional investment in a character as bland as Langdon, even when played by the most likeable actor on Earth. The supporting characters don’t provide anything in the way of nuance to make them interesting or believable: Doctor Sienna, who we are meant to believe is a clever young woman, put wedges on in her flat at the beginning and then keeps them on for most of the film. Who wears wedges at home? This isn’t quite as bad Bryce Dallas Howard in Jurassic World keeping her stilettos on whilst being chased by dinosaurs (maybe it’s a Howard family thing?), but the fact that I couldn’t get over this should give you an indication of the level of suspension of disbelief that this film requires.
I had a very meta moment during the screening in which Knudsen’s character delivered a line to her subordinates, which accurately described my feelings towards this film: “I need better from everyone! Better!”