I am not ashamed to say that I was one of millions who fell in to a Dan Brown shaped hole for a portion of the early 2000s. Both The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons proved to be more than satisfactory company whilst laying on beaches and lounging by swimming pools over summer holidays, and though I knew that the farfetched nature and quality of the novels were questionable, I nonetheless found myself frantically turning pages to discover what clue was come next. Later come the film adaptations of the books, both of which were expectedly silly but somewhat fun and helped by the star quality of a certain Mr. Tom Hanks. I went in to Inferno not having any previous knowledge of the novel, as by that point my lust for Dan Brown’s work had subsided. Would the silly fun continue?
Well, there was certainly silliness, but the fun was most definitely forgotten. Inferno once again reunites the audience with Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), the genius Harvard professor who this time wakes up in a hospital bed in Florence with no memory of how he came to be there. Langdon soon learns that he is being hunted by a mysterious organisation because of something that is in his possession, and with the help of doctor Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), the narrative follows the same familiar Dan Brown path of running from historic sight to historic sight to solve puzzles, reveal clues and arrive just in time to save the world. The thing is, when Hanks ran from place to place in The Da Vinci Code, it was fun, when he ran from place to place in Angels & Demons, it was still kind of fun, but this is definitely a case of third time unlucky because by the forty minute mark the audience is completely tired of the formula that seemed to work years before. Whereas in previous Robert Langdon outings the interest was formed in the clever working out of the puzzles, Inferno instead seems to focus more on the in-between sequences of running/jumping/driving/flying from place to place, and whilst spending time with Tom Hanks is never a complete bore, he is certainly no action star and many of these ‘heightened risk’ passages fall completely flat, leaving the decision to focus on them a massive failure when the 90 or so seconds of ‘intelligent’ exposition and problem solving at each location seem totally half hearted and inane.
It may just be that the content of the novel itself was not as interesting or cinematically engaging as the first two, but for a narrative that relies so heavily in audience engagement and intrigue, the stakes never felt high, even when the literal safety of the entire world’s population was at risk. There is some credit to be given to certain acting performances and to a moderately thrilling final action sequence, but this ten or so minutes of excitement are not enough to excuse the 100 minutes of what is painfully predictable, phone checkingly boring and altogether yawn inducing ‘mystery’ drama that is anything but mysterious.
Tom Hanks gives a solid if not slightly uninspired performance as he revisits Robert Langdon, a character that if continued may start to become a real albatross around his neck.We all know that he can be and do much better than this, and to be honest its not really his fault that he has to act as walking and talking exposition machine for the audience to ensure that they stay on top of the crazy narrative. It’s not quite enough to totally turn me against him, though, as there are a couple of sequences in which he gets the chance to showcase some of his natural charm and talent. Felicity Jones as Sienna Brooks is similarly burdened with having to play a character whose motivations, twists and turns you can see coming a mile off. Though she does nothing particularly noteworthy or memorable, she displays a sometimes pleasing on screen chemistry with Hanks that helps to soften the blow of the plot nonsense that is going on around them. Special mention for Sidse Babbett Knudsen as Elizabeth Sinksey, head of the World Health Organisation and Irrfan Khan as Harry, the head of said ‘mysterious organisation’, both of whom are enjoyable on screen presences, especially Khan who lights up the screen whenever he is on it and provides some of the best and most memorable moments in the film.
Overall, Inferno is pretty much a garbage fire. The galant and in certain cases genuinely good performances of the relatively star studded cast are simply not enough to save the picture from being defeated by its own ridiculousness. I don’t mind a spot of silly fun once in a while, but when the silliness outweighs any glint of fun, then there is a serious problem, and fun is definitely the one thing that is lacking from start to finish.