Hard to Get Fired Up about Inferno
- Christian Hamaker Contributing Film and Culture Writer
- Updated Jan 20, 2017
The characters keep talking and talking through Ron Howard's latest adaptation of Dan Brown's Robert Langdon novels. Plot twists and a sense of mystery are slow to develop in a story that's constantly explaining what's happening and why. 2 out of 5.
Professor and symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) wakes up in a hospital in Italy, his head wounded and his memory fuzzy. With the help of nurse Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), who's been a fan of Langdon’s work since she was a child, they piece together what happened to Langdon and work to prevent a plot by scientist Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster) to unleash a virus that will wipe out half of humankind. Along for the ride are Christoph Bouchard (Omar Sy) and Harry Sims (Irrfan Khan), both of whom fall under the skeptical eye of Langdon and Brooks as threats to their safety. To end the threat, Langdon and Brooks will travel across Europe, piecing together clues that involve Dante's depiction of hell and the paintings it inspired.
Very little, although that's not the fault of Hanks and Jones, who look comfortable while trying to breathe life into a screenplay that has them constantly asking questions, answering them, and traveling from one locale to another while avoiding assassins and other forms of imminent danger.
Despite Howard's best efforts to bring energy, even style, Inferno struggles to come across as something cinematic; it's more like an oral book report. While there's less of a religious-conspiracy angle in Inferno than there was in The Da Vinci Code, there's also not much to get worked up about, positively or negatively. Inferno is merely dull. Howard tries hard to liven up the film's first hour through quick cutting and depiction of various Langdon visions, but he can't mask how little cinematic material he has to work with from the source novel. Inferno is the kind of story where every decision is explained as it's made, making it difficult to care about the story and characters long before any major plot twists arrive.
Christian Worldview Elements / Spiritual Themes
Dante is said to have defined our conception of hell, and Botticelli to have visualized Dante's circles of hell. A character claims that the greatest sins in human history were done in the name of love. But unlike The Da Vinci Code, the religious content in Inferno is less a source of genuine debate and suspicion than it is a mere plot device in service of a run-of-the-mill thriller. The villain this time isn't the Church but a misguided man who fervently believes the world is catastrophically overpopulated and its human inhabitants must be culled—a combination that may have made for a more interesting philosophical film had Inferno spent more time on that character and his twisted rationale.
CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers)
- MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, disturbing images, some language, thematic elements and brief sensuality
- Language/Profanity: "Oh my God"; the f-word; s-it; "hell".
- Sexuality/Nudity: Asked if a man lives with her, a woman replies, “Sometimes”; a woman tells Robert that, when in Italy, he doesn't have to refer to his female colleague as his "niece"; a man and woman have sex, but are clothed.
- Violence/Frightening/Intense: A man commits suicide and falls to his death; bandages are peeled off, revealing wounds beneath them; people are shot; a vision of blood flooding the streets; vision of a snake biting a man; visions of being injected in the neck and having eyes/face slashed; a woman falls to her death; art theft; a plot to kill off a huge portion of the global population; fire extinguisher to the head; stabbings; an incision into the head is shown; a blow to the head with a blunt instrument; an explosion.
The Bottom Line
RECOMMENDED FOR: Fans of author Dan Brown and his Robert Langdon stories.
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR: Viewers who prefer thrillers that aren't so heavily dialogue-driven.
Inferno, directed by Ron Howard, opened in theaters October 28, 2016; available for home viewing January 24, 2017. It runs 121 minutes and stars Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Ben Foster, Irrfan Khan, Omar Sy, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Ana Uluru and Ida Darvish. Watch the trailer for Inferno here.
Christian Hamaker brings a background in both Religion (M.A., Reformed Theological Seminary) and Film/Popular Culture (B.A., Virginia Tech) to his reviews. He still has a collection of more than 100 laserdiscs, and for DVDs patronizes the local library. Streaming? What is this "streaming" of which you speak? He'll figure it out someday. Until then, his preferred viewing venue is a movie theater. Christian is happily married to Sarah, a parent coach and author of Hired@Home and Ending Sibling Rivalry.
Publication date: October 27, 2016