Director: Ron Howard
Starring: Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Irrfan Khan
I have been a huge fan of Dan Brown novels since the day I picked up The Da Vinci Code. Since then I have read all the Langdon adventures and his other stories too. The Da Vinci Code movie came out at a really good age for me, I was 16 years old and not long finished the book, I was at a very curious age and Dan Brown’s mix of education and story strikes true with me. Inferno would be the next film adaptation ahead of The Lost Symbol which excited me. I found Inferno deeply absorbing and I learned a great deal about Dante Alighieri, Florence and the black plague, so was eager to view the latest adaptation.
Directed by Ron Howard, we once again follow Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks, effortless once again as he is in any role), this time awakening in a hospital bed suffering from a head wound and a mild case of amnesia. Through a series of events he is chasing down clues and symbols with a young woman (this time it’s Sienna Brooks, played very well by Felicity Jones) trying to stop a deadly plague from wiping out a large percentage of the human population.
The first thing that grabbed me with this film is the tone it set in the opening 15 minutes. When we are first introduced to Langdon’s bloody, amnesic state, he begins to see hallucinations whilst being hunted down by a random assassin. These hallucinations are portrayed in a dark way, with people on fire, horrible scarred faces and other frightening visions. This filming was impressive as the general mood of the previous two were considerably lighter. And as we are dealing with a story based on Dante’s vision of hell, it only seemed fitting.
These visions flick in and out during the opening sequence fairly often and gave me a bit of a headache after a while, but overall this tone set the story up well. As mentioned before, an unknown person hunts down Langdon and Brooks, as per the books. And the manic chasing continues from this stage without giving us the viewer a second to breathe. You could say then that this means it is an adventure/action movie that is fast paced and exciting to watch. Yes, no doubt there were scenes that had me excited and entertained, but when I read the Langdon books, at times I am more intrigued about the historical lessons I receive and not the action itself. With The Da Vinci Code, in the middle of the movie Ian Mckellan treats us to a lesson in the works and art of Da Vinci (let’s call these theories, not so much factual, I won’t get into that debate!). These scenes are intriguing and help build on the story and the meaning behind why Langdon needs to make his goal.
With Inferno though, there wasn’t a moment where the film took a big step back, appreciated the historical aspects and allowed the meaning behind Dante to shine through in the story. At the end of the day, the book and movies titles are “Inferno” for a reason. Of course there are mentioning of historical facts from Langdon as him and Sienna are moving from one place to another, but they just seemed to fill the gaps more so than treat us to some interesting information. Whereas in the book, there is time for stories and lessons in Dante and the rest, and it is this information that allows Langdon to make calculated decisions. Here in the movie though, he seemed to have the answers at all times straight away, his thought process never going off track. It all seemed very ‘easy’, something it definitely wasn’t portrayed to be in the novel.
This is my biggest disappointment with the movie as a whole, and this leads me on to my next issue which is the frenetic pacing of the movie making everything seem all over the place. There are certain plot holes that are pretty obvious because of this along with a runtime that had too much crammed in. The looming crisis of world population should have been held over these characters at all times, a much more serious subject than the previous two Langdon stories. But it didn’t fully feel that the actions from the characters were reflecting this matter, and this is way off the mark.
Amongst all of this though there is a stand out performance by Irrfan Khan, playing the ‘Provost’. His character is very calm and that relaxing presence helped against the manic setting. He is also a bit of a bad ass, killing off people not too dissimilar from Altair from Assassins Creed, a joy to watch.
Now, I won’t spoil the ending, but what I will say is that it goes completely away from the book. I understand that sometimes this needs to be done to make more of the theatre audience happy with the ending. But probably the best part about Dan Brown’s Inferno was the twist at the end, and for me to leave this out is an absolute tragedy as it would have left a lot of film goers who have not read the book feel sick in the stomach and completely caught unawares. To have this happy-hollywood-ending instead of the true ending made me so frustrated when the credits came up, I can’t forgive it for that. I am not blaming anyone in particular here, as I think perhaps the writers, Brown and Howard didn’t have the control they wanted to meet this ending, who knows.
Overall this adaptation of Inferno dissapoints me, it is my second favourite Brown novel so I had high hopes coming into this movie. But the frenetic pacing, obvious plot holes and that ending made Inferno hellish to watch.