Inferno (2016)

  • Time: 121 min
  • Genre: Action | Adventure | Crime
  • Director: Ron Howard
  • Cast: Tom Hanks, Ben Foster, Felicity Jones


Academy Award® winner Ron Howard returns to direct the latest bestseller in Dan Brown’s (Da Vinci Code) billion-dollar Robert Langdon series, Inferno, which finds the famous symbologist (again played by Tom Hanks) on a trail of clues tied to the great Dante himself. When Langdon wakes up in an Italian hospital with amnesia, he teams up with Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), a doctor he hopes will help him recover his memories. Together, they race across Europe and against the clock to stop a madman from unleashing a global virus that would wipe out half of the world’s population.


  • I have not read the book but the story of Inferno depends on gimmicks to keep it going. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad movie but it does become predictable before it ends once all the twists have been twisted. As I always say, a good story makes a good movie. After the story quality starts to slip so does the quality of the movie.
    David Koepp wrote the screenplay and, according to my wife, changed a number of things but did not give the screenplay the kind of story that would hold us. My wife read the book and she was much more disappointed with the film than I was so there’s some advantage to not knowing the source material. Even without the knowledge of the source, Koepp has left the ending to slide.
    The movie is almost saved by the excellent direction of Ron Howard. He keeps the pace moving through the action parts and slows it down to allow for the next action sequence to have more of an impact. The editing, by Tom Elkins and Daniel P. Hanley, helps a great deal but it ends up looking like so many other lesser movies who use fast editing as a way to cover up the fact that there’s nothing exciting happening. Again, a weak story can’t be improved with good directing but it can only be covered up for a while.
    Tom Hanks is back as Robert Langdon and Hanks does a very nice job. It is what we have come to expect from his performances. Felicity Jones plays the young woman part of Sienna. I found her two dimensional which didn’t work for her character. Omar Sy plays Christoph Bouchard convincingly. Irrfan Khan plays Harry Sims much more convincingly than many of the actors do with their parts but it’s written confusingly. Ben Foster plays the bad guy, Bertrand Zobrist, but is two dimensional and not believable.
    Sidse Babett Knudsen plays Elizabeth Sinskey but is not written well so she doesn’t have a solid character to play. This is a problem with the characters, many of whom have very different beginnings and endings.
    I give Inferno 3½ falling bodies out of 5. I enjoyed it but I kept seeing holes or inconsistencies that accumulated and, by the end of the movie, my enjoyment wasn’t as great as it appeared it would be during the beginning of the movie.

  • What would Hitchcock, lover of MacGuffins, have made out of Inferno, which is essentially one big MacGuffin from start to finish? There’s a plague, created by a billionaire not particularly pleased by the world’s overpopulation, and whose location may be pinpointed by deciphering a series of clues involving Dante’s vision of hell. “Seek and find” is the refrain that reverberates through this film but, in fact, what is sought and found is very much beside the point.

    Producer Brian Grazer, director Ron Howard and star Tom Hanks are all back on board for this third adaptation of Dan Brown’s best-selling franchise featuring academic super sleuth Robert Langdon. At this point, any or all of them could sleepwalk through the proceedings – one could argue that they were already slumming with the series’ previous entries, The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons – but it’s harder than it appears to spin some semblance of gold from the straw that is Brown’s material. This is not a knock on populist entertainment nor is it a knock on Inferno, but rather an acknowledgement that genuine effort is required for something that many may deem a simple and simpleminded work. Hitchcock had an unerring ability to elevate his material but that material, stripped to its core, was lowbrow at best.

    Which is a long and tangential way of saying that Howard, at his third time behind the helm, has made a very satisfying something out of a very familiar nothing. There’s an energy to Inferno, an almost brusque briskness that was missing in action in the previous films. The urgency of the narrative is still lagging – for all the crowds that suffocate almost every frame of the movie, one feels nary a twinge at their impending doom – but the execution compels. Perhaps because Howard focuses less on the mystery and more on the players. Movement is key here, whether it’s the speed of thought as the minds of Langdon and his latest sidekick Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones) dash to solve the trail of clues in order to track the virus, or the continual convergence of the assorted figures who may help or harm Langdon.

    Hanks’ Langdon has always been the least interesting of the film’s characters – which is not to say that Hanks does not interest as Langdon – and Howard has always been smart to cast (and sometimes waste) an array of international actors in supporting roles. The first film included Audrey Tatou, Jean Reno and Ian McKellen, the second had Ewan McGregor, Stellan Skarsgaard and Nikolaj Lie Kaas, but this current roster is arguably the one that makes the strongest impression. Jones sparks well with Hanks and their banter often recalls the one between Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll in The 39 Steps (Hitchcock again! In fact, Inferno is a veritable wonderland of Hitchcock references). Omar Sy, though not given very much to do as one of the leading manhunters, cuts a very striking presence as does Ana Ularu as the carabinieri with a kill order against Langdon.

    Best of all are Irrfan Khan as the enigmatic head of a shadowy organisation whose allegiance is ever shifting, and Sidse Babett Knudsen as World Health Organization leader Elizabeth Sinskey, whose connection to Langdon is both professional and personal. Both Khan and Knudsen are so deliciously riveting that their fates are the only ones that matter during the exciting finale that takes place in an underground labyrinth with its blood-coloured lagoon and innumerable pillars, one of which bears the plague that is waiting to be unleashed.

    Do we need a fourth installment? Not really. But it would be worth it to see the return of Knudsen’s Elizabeth Sinskey.

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  • (RATING: ☆☆ out of 5)


    IN BRIEF: A boring mystery that mystifies basic logical reasoning.

    GRADE: C-

    SYNOPSIS: We’re off on another trek where art history and mystery collide. With some amazing twists and turns, Robert Langdon must try to save the whole world this time (again).

    JIM’S REVIEW: For me, hell would be an eternity filled with boredom (or an endless series of sports telecasts as my only means of amusement, or, perhaps, this film). Okay, seeing Ron Howard’s sub-standard thriller, Inferno, may not have been exactly hell, but it was certainly an excruciatingly dull moviegoing experience. This joyless mystery may have only reached the first tier of the netherworld, but it was definitely second-tier entertainment for me.

    In the third installment of Dan Brown’s popular novels, our intrepid detective and art connoisseur, Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), is, yet again, a man on the run. This time, he lays injured in a hospital bed. Unable to remember any details about past events, he must decipher the mystery, clear his name, and save the world. With the aid of his doctor, Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), the cat-and-mouse games begin.

    Substituting daVinci’s Mona Lisa for Botticelli’s The Abyss of Hell, the film follows the same formula…finding clues in a scavenger that mixes art, espionage, and murder while globetrotting through scenic destinations like Florence, Venice, and Istanbul. Dante’s Inferno is the heady inspiration that oversees this aesthetic enigma. As the plot progresses, the leaps of logic congeal with a zeal of frequency as well. The more convoluted this labyrinth of a story goes, the more tangled and far-fetched it becomes.

    Mr. Howard solidly directs his film, although some of his images are heavy-handed. The real puzzle, however, is a screenplay by Davis Koepp that is an absurd mess. (Having not read the book, I am told that there are some changes from the novel, even if the woeful plot remains the same.)

    The scenario is basically formulaic storytelling: 1. introduce and give some character exposition, 2. run around picturesque cities and tourist attractions, 3. find a clue, then run, 4. give a short art lesson, 5. find another clue and run some more. Tedious. (In fact, the film’s biggest mystery for this viewer was how the characters got around the museums without paying any admission fee, not even a senior discount for Mr. Hanks. The guards would be escorting these interlopers out of their institutions immediately before there were any possible shoot-outs or chases.)

    Still, it’s nice to see the Florence Baptistry, The Uffizi Gallery, St. Mark’s Basilica, and Hagia Sophia as backdrops to this alleged thriller, which is probably the most enjoyable part of the film. After all, when the scenery upstages the story, one knows something is amiss.

    Mr. Hanks and Ms. Jones make a likable team. They inject some nuance into their poorly written roles. Also on hand is the reliable Ben Foster as billionaire Bertrand Zobrist. Omar Sy, Irrfan Khan, Sidse Babett Knudsen, and Ana Ularu add that international flavor to this diverse casting.

    But Inferno never ignites any spark. It burns itself out and fizzles its way to its tiresome conclusion.

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  • For years people have left movie theatres angry about changes made to important aspects of their favorite books. Avid book readers approach film adaptations hoping to get a real visualization of everything they imagined while reading. However, patrons who haven’t read the corresponding books are perfectly satisfied with the re-vamped screen versions of the stories. It is this conflict of interests that I believe puts the film industry in a difficult position when it comes to adapting books.

    Realistically, it seems impractical to turn an intricate 600- page suspense novel like Dan Brown’s Inferno into a reasonable-length film without making some cuts. This is often the case with adaptations of books, and therefore I can forgive the film industry for not including every fine detail an author writes. Inferno, like Dan Brown’s other books, consists of a plot so detailed and convoluted, I’m not even sure how Brown himself kept it all straight while writing it. Brown spends most of the novel writing in a way that intentionally misleads the readers’ interpretation of the characters, only to turn everything upside down at the end and reveal the truth. The directors of the film accomplished most of their cuts by minimizing this effect, and also combining some characters. I thought the addition of Brouchard in place of the book’s Agent Bruder and Dr. Ferris was actually very clever. Neither of them were very developed characters in the book and played relatively small roles.

    My biggest disappointment in the film was the dramatic series of changes made to the ending. In Brown’s original, the virus Zobrist creates is released, but instead of making people sick, it renders approximately one third of the world’s population infertile. The book ends with Sinskey and the WHO meeting to attempt to create another virus that will undo the effects of the first. Sienna reveals all of this to Langdon, and joins the WHO in trying to find a solution. This ending is unexpected, but what I liked about it most was that it was open-ended, with no finite solution. In the film, however, the virus is never revealed to be anything other than a plague in the traditional sense, and is contained by Sinskey in a very Hollywood-esque underwater fight scene in which Sienna is killed.

    Overall I would say the film is a little disappointing to someone expecting Dan Brown’s intricate plot and attention to detail, but probably perfectly satisfying for a movie-goer looking for a suspenseful film.

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