The latest Dan Brown adaptation to feature intrepid symbologist Robert Langdon follows closely in the footsteps of The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons. It is a well paced, albeit formulaic thriller, which has just enough nifty plot twists to keep the audience on their toes. Once again a distinguished team of Hollywood A-listers were involved in the production with Ron Howard back in the directing chair, David Koepp on writing duties and Tom Hanks resuming the role of Langdon. The beautiful locations and well shot set pieces are enhanced by Hans Zimmer’s soaring score but the excitement level is consistently lukewarm and the end result is a fleetingly entertaining, but ultimately forgettable blockbuster.
Waking up in a Florence hospital bed, a beaten and beleaguered Langdon has a dose of amnesia and is clueless about how he has ended up in his current predicament. It doesn’t take long for the action to kick in though. Langdon soon finds himself deeply embroiled in a race against time to stop a deadly doomsday virus concocted by billionaire psychotic geneticist Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster). Assisted by the smart and sassy Dr. Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), the pair must decode a series of cryptic clues inspired by Dante’s Inferno before hell on earth is literally let loose.
As an action hero Hank’s straight laced Langdon is a bit of a dullard. After a jarring, death defying opening sequence, he yearns for a cup of coffee when a slug of whiskey would surely be more appropriate. The CGI visons of Hell that plague Langdon’s dreams are weakly conveyed, more akin to a PG-rated horror flick than the stuff of horrifying nightmares. Perhaps this is the by-product of a film franchise designed for mass appeal but you can’t help but feel that the film’s tameness is more of a hindrance than help. A little more risk and edginess would make the film and Langdon more entertaining. Nevertheless, the plot is nicely constructed with Langdon’s memory loss providing an element of mystery to the story line. As Langdon attempts to piece together the puzzle, the audience are kept guessing also and we’re never really sure who can be trusted. The supporting cast are strong with Felicity Jones and Ben Foster providing good turns in intriguing if slightly underdeveloped roles. Irrfan Khan is very good as Harry Sims, the duplicitous head of The Consortium, a shady organisation who want Langdon dead. He provides an effective injection of villainous comic relief to proceedings. It all builds to a promising finale. Unfortunately, while the location of the climax is effective, the execution is flawed and the overall resolution badly lacks dramatic impact.
A watchable but routine thriller which shoots around visually arresting European locations without ever shifting out of second gear. There’s no doubt that the talent involved ensure a handsome looking and well made piece of work. It would have benefited from raising the tension levels and pushing the darker elements of the apocalyptic story line. What could have been an invigorating cinematic roller coaster ride basically ends up being as soulless as a sinner in the ninth circle of hell. Inferno is just too mild and middle of the road to be memorable. Dante would not be impressed.