Director: Ron Howard
Cast: Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Ben Foster, Omar Sy, Irrfan Khan, Sidse Babett Knudsen
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The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons were just the beginning, warns the DVD cover and poster for Inferno, Ron Howard’s third adaptation of Dan Brown’s novels. It’s warning that could work either way: Angels & Demons, the second screen outing for decoder extraordinaire Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), was a step up from his first, after the script accelerated the pace, skipping over Brown’s source material so that exposition and running between MacGuffins could happen at the same time. Da Vinci Code’s over-serious tone, though, remained, as even the most ridiculous plot twists were delivered with the straightest of faces. Inferno, unfortunately, mostly continues the latter tradition: the plot twists are sillier, and the faces are even straighter.
We rejoin Professor Rob as he wakes up in an Italian hospital suffering from amnesia. At the same time, a madman (Ben Foster) is yelling Dante at everyone who can hear him, threatening to wipe out the world with a deadly virus. And so he has little choice but to team up with Dr. Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), who aims to help him recover his memories.
Two puzzles being completed at the same time? With running? And the apocalypse? Inferno should be hilariously dumb fun, but director Ron Howard and writer David Koepp just can’t loosen up enough to enjoy themselves. Howard instils a 90s-era tone, as blurry CGI visions interrupt Langdon’s brain patterns and the musical portent is turned up to 11, while Koepp throws in a Google joke to prove they know a hero who saves humanity using the Dewey Decimal System is a tad old-fashioned. But neither are willing to show irreverence to Brown’s material, which requires a tour of Florence before trotting the globe to Switzerland and further afield, without anyone making a joke about flight delays.
Hanks, for his part, does his best with the material, but it’s more glaring than ever that Langdon is a bland protagonist; with a story introducing his own personal suffering alongside a worldwide catastrophe, there’s a striking lack of depth or emotional involvement to be found. Foster does staring villain with just the right amount of intensity, but he’s just one of several impressive names who don’t have enough to do – others who fall victim to Inferno’s underwhelming clutches include Omar Sy, Irrfan Khan, and Sidse Babett Knudsen. Felicity Jones, who has enjoyed a meteoric star rise since the days of Chalet Girl, tries to make the most of her cliched role, but even she can’t help distract from the kind of twists that should be far more surprising; these thrillers about code-breaking are, all too aptly, predictably formulaic.
The result is a surprisingly unexciting film about the end of the world – and that’s saying something, when the movie’s central premise echoes Channel 4’s Utopia and Infinity War’s Thanos by tackling the ethical dilemma of overpopulation. This wants to be fiery, provocative cinema; it’s closer to a soggy BBQ on a damp Bank Holiday Monday.
Inferno is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.
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