Posted Oct 14 2016

Inferno - This Movie Runs A Lot More Than It Rocks

Dir: Ron Howard

Starring Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Sidse Babbett Knudsen, Irrfan Khan, Omar Sy

So, is calling the third Howard-Hanks-Dan Brown-Robert Langdon outing one of the three best Howard-Hanks-Dan Brown-Robert Langdon movies ever, damning with faint prise? Well, yes.

Since their last, and second, excursion into Dan Brown’s symbologist world, it’s fair to say that both Howard and Hanks have lost their command over the box office and their former, assumed audience. Hanks can still draw in the right role – see the upcoming Sully, and Howard can still make a great movie – witness his recent Beatles doc. But neither are in a position to automatically ‘open’ a movie in the way they once could. So it’s easy to surmise that both might be grateful here for being back on familiar territory. But be careful of what you know…

Anyone who’s ever read Brown’s Inferno knows that the first half reads like a slightly extended screenplay that is basically a chase movie, with the occasional pause to tell you about the various Florence-set locales you’re tearing through. And the second half is exposition heavy and more and more contrived. Howard’s movie is, if nothing else, a solid adaptation, in both of those reagrds. The first half moves at a clip and is suitably entertaining – although after about ten minutes or so it manages to feel that it is actually moving slower than the printed page – something of an achievement for a well-edited movie (which this is.)

Still, Howard manages to keep the first act of his movie taut and sharp, replete with suitably off-kilter imagery and Hanks at his best as the conveniently amnesiac historian-everyman. But as things progress, we become more and more aware of the plot’s reliance on pure convenience (come on, really, the doctor who treats Langdon’s concussion turns out to be a chid prodigy who just happens to specialise in the works of Dante – something on which the entire world decimating plague waiting to happen plot hinges??!!) And that’s only the beginning! As inferno unfolds, we jet around Europe – including a trip to Venice, which turns out to be – whoops! – the wrong place, but looks pretty, pausing every location for Hanks/Langdon to impart a little bit of tourist-centric history –or just made up claptrappy bollocks. By the time we end up with Hanks putting his ear to the floor of a cathedral to determine there’s water underneath, you just want to say “Stand up man and have some respect for yourself.”

This is daft, silly, and then daft again. There are moments when you want to think it knows just how convoluted it is and is aware of its tightrope walk with self-parody. But earnestness prevails. The suspension of disbelief that Brown may afford his readers on the page does not translate to the screen.

Still, one of the three best Howard-Hanks-Dan Brown-Robert Langdon movies to date.


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