Thursday, February 04, 2021

"Inferno": quick review

"Inferno," a Ron Howard film released in 2016, stars Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Irrfan Khan, Omar Sy, Ben Foster, and Sidse Babett Knudsen.  The movie is based on the Dan Brown novel of the same name.  The story focuses on world-renowned symbologist Robert Langdon (Hanks), who attempts to piece together a puzzle in an effort to stop a global pandemic caused by an engineered virus code-named Inferno.  The virus's purpose is to wipe out half of humanity (shades of Thanos) in an effort to hit the rest button and give humanity a chance to start again, following a less environmentally destructive path.  The virus has been developed by insane billionaire Bertrand Zobrist (Foster), who commits suicide at the beginning of the film.  Langdon begins the story in a hospital, waking up from an apparent head wound.  A doctor named Sienna Brooks (Jones) tells Langdon he's been grazed by a bullet.  A woman dressed in a police uniform tries to kill Langdon; he and Sienna escape, and thus begins a globe-trotting adventure during which the pair will dodge the World Health Organization (curiously well-armed), a shadowy black-ops organization, and various other parties who are all following clues leading to the pathogen, which is hidden... well, somewhere.

I read both of Brown's earlier, more famous novels—Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code.  Once you know the pattern, you know there are certain things you can expect.  First and foremost:  everyone will double-cross you eventually.  Second:  there's always at least one talented, very motivated assassin on your trail.  Third:  you're going to take a tour through a bunch of beautiful cities.  "Inferno" (I haven't read the novel) follows this pattern to a tee, so while some of the specific details of the convoluted plot were unexpected, the nature of the plot was completely predictable.  I often found my mind wandering as I watched the movie; I kept asking myself why it is that all the people in Robert Langdon's life like to bombard him with obliquely phrased puzzles and riddles, and why it is that the poor man can never seem to find anyone trustworthy.  Suffice it to say that the movie was a slog; it relied too much on plot twist after plot twist, as if Brown, in writing the novel, had been at pains to subvert expectations (e.g., an assassin who turns out not to be the most dangerous character in the story).  I kind of liked "The Da Vinci Code" when it came out a decade earlier; it was a decent adaptation of the novel.  But "Inferno" struck me as silly and borderline stupid; as other critics noted, Langdon's greatest asset is his genius brain, but he spends half the story groggily recovering from a head injury and suffering weird visions and hallucinations.  How interesting would a Sherlock Holmes story be if you partially lobotomized Holmes?

[NB:  as promised, I've started plowing through the many movies in my Amazon Prime Video queue.  I've got a ton of films waiting to be watched, so expect plenty of reviews over the coming year.]

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