Directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Ben Foster, Omar Sy, and Irrfan Khan, “Inferno” is the third installment in the Robert Langdon film series, which is based on the bestselling mystery-thriller novels by Dan Brown. While this film has a quality director, a star-powered cast, and more than a handful of mysterious and thrilling moments, “Inferno” is likely the worst of the trilogy due to a convoluted plot and the over dramatization.
Harvard professor, historian and famous symbolist, Robert Langdon (Hanks), wakes up in an Italian hospital without any record of the past few days, apparently as a result of a bullet wound to the head. With the help of Dr. Sienna Brooks (Jones), Langdon escapes the hospital after a female assassin tries to kill him. Trying to regain his memory and figure out what has happened, Langdon examines his personal items and finds a miniature image projector (a laser pointer of sorts) that shows him an altered version of an Italian painter, Sandro Botticelli’s Map of Hell, which is based on medieval poet, Dante Alighieri’s Inferno.
Langdon and Brooks soon realize that the map is a clue left by billionaire geneticist, Bertrand Zobrist (Foster), who commits suicide at the beginning of the film after being chased by government agents. Zobrist believed that extreme measures were needed to reduce the Earth’s increasing population, and being obsessed with Dante, he created a deadly virus that he calls “Inferno, ” which has the ability destroy a portion of the world’s population. With Langdon’s vast knowledge of history and Dante’s work, he and Brooks must follow the clues left by Zobrist to find and destroy the virus.
To make matters even more complicated, Langdon and Brooks are not the only ones looking for the virus. A private security company called “The Consortium”, who the female assassin from the hospital works for, is aligned with Zobrist, and a government agency called World Health Organization (WHO) is attempting to stop the spread of the virus. While Langdon and Brooks travel across Europe looking for the virus, they are followed and often come close to being apprehended by both organizations.
As you can see by the plot summary, which has already been decreased to still give a clear explanation of the story, the film is very complex. Between the various parties seeking the virus and the multiple clues with historical significance, parts of the movie can be difficult to keep up with. Each clue takes them to a different historical landmark and European area so that Langdon can figure out what it means and where to go next. I’d be lying if I said I was able to keep up with the breakdown of each clue and historical meaning, but thankfully the film provides just enough entertainment to keep you engaged.
While personally, I did enjoy seeing different parts of Europe, specifically Florence, Venice, and Istanbul, and various historical landmarks, art and more, the film often felt like one extremely long chase scene. From one place to the next, Langdon and Brooks would arrive, with The Consortium and WHO agents close behind, and often Langdon/Brooks would have to avoid being caught. Naturally, Langdon’s historical knowledge would frequently lead him and Brooks to a secret passage or door that wasn’t known to the public, which allowed them to escape and move on to the next clue without being caught.
On top of the confusion the plot creates, it seemed as if just about every scene and escape were overly dramatic. There’s no doubt that the film provides multiple thrills, but between the chase, repeatedly just barely escaping, and the intense dramatic music that accompanied these scenes, it felt like a bit much at times. There are also numerous twists and surprises in this mystery thriller, but again these became too frequent and over the top. For example, a character would turn out to be a spy or double agent working for the opposite side, and too many people seemed to flip flop allegiances and intentions.
Like most book to film adaptations do, the movie has a few differences from the novel. Without spoiling anything in the film, an example of this would be the changes to the makeup of the virus, specifically in the book where the virus is intended to make part of the population sterile, versus in the movie where it would simply wipe out that same portion of people. Other changes involved certain characters’ true allegiance or what side they were on being different in the movie than the book, or a former love interest in the movie not existing in the book. Most of these appeared to only serve as a way to make the movie more dramatic.
There is definitely some entertainment value present in the film, but given the director and cast, I was disappointed in the overall product. The film presents some humorous moments, mostly surrounding a sarcastic line, comment or reaction, and the backdrop is filled with appealing locations, scenery, and interesting historical aspects. Unfortunately, the story has way too many moving parts and thrills by the dozens.
2.5 out of 5 stars.
“Inferno” is rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, disturbing images, some language, thematic elements and brief sensuality. Running time is 2 hours and 1 minute.
Hayden Pittman is a special contributor to WFAA.com and a freelance writer, photographer/videographer, and filmmaker in Dallas, TX. You can find more of his work on Selig Film News. He is a film, TV, and sports enthusiast, and when he is not reviewing movies, Hayden works in film production. Don't like what he has to say? Let him know at firstname.lastname@example.org, find him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter at @HPMoviePitt. Enjoy the movies!