Inferno (Cinema Review)

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12A – 121mins – 2016


A decade after he first strapped on Robert Langdon’s cherished Mickey Mouse wristwatch in the much anticipated conversion of The Da Vinci Code from page-turner to must-see movie, screen legend Tom Hanks is back for a third global race against the clock as author Dan Brown’s sensationally-popular Harvard professor, cryptographer and Indiana Jones for the 21st century.

With Ron In the Heart of the Sea Howard once more back in the director’s chair, David Koepp on script duty, Salvatore Totino returning as cinematographer, Brian Glazer producing and Hans Zimmer again providing the rousing aural backdrop, Inferno is very much a case of the gang’s all here, which is remarkable given the seven year gap since 2006’s Angels & Demons – doubly so given how in the intervening years a production of Brown’s 2009 Da Vinci follow-up The Lost Symbol was started but stalled at script stage.

148, 136, 121. No, not a Fibonacci sequence but the diminishing length of the three Robert Langdon theatrical releases to date. While many bemoaned Da Vinci as unwieldy and bloated to excess, Inferno’s comparative brevity – albeit still two hours long – leads to a much punchier adventure this time out, which also helps bolster the tension as Ben Warcraft Foster’s fearmongering overpopulation biologist and billionaire Bertrand Zobrist threatens to release a herd-thinning virus from beyond the grave.

Can the puzzle-solving Professor – suffering short-term amnesia and hellish Dante-inspired hallucinations of plague masks and rivers of lava following a head trauma – and former child prodigy-turned-Florentine A&E doctor, Sienna Brooks (Felicity Rogue One Jones), allude the trio of gun-totting international agencies out to silence him, crack the codes unlocking the location of Zobrist’s deadly pathogen and recover his memory before the doomsday device is detonated?

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As the convoluted plot played out on the big screen I was regularly reminded of numerous key scenes from my reading of the novel three years ago. Given the often impenetrable density of the verbose fact-flinging dialogue and the head-spinning complexity of the expansive dramatis personae and their murky motivations, I would say that a knowledge of Brown’s text would benefit your viewing experience. However, one jaw-dropping rug-pull of a revelation definitely befitted from my own case of coincidentally selective amnesia, leaving me suitably stunned.

Similarly, Langdon’s patchy recall skills make Inferno a convenient entry point for series virgins, although having personally rewatched both of the preceding entries in one bum-numbing weekend marathon, I appreciated the allusions – however minor – to what came before this belated reintroduction to the beloved brainbox (timepiece, claustrophobia, stance on God).

Religious controversy may take a back seat to classic literature and (projected) social issues this time out, but adamant haters – and snobbish critics – will still be dissuaded from Inferno’s merits by the heavy reliance on exposition-on-the-move and Howard’s penchant for overlong flashbacks to underscore vital revelations. I concede this threequel is not flawless; characters are often too smart for the audience’s good and the book’s original ending has disappointingly been altered, but it is worth more acknowledgment and appreciation than the critical kicking it has received.

Image result for inferno film posterA thrilling Europe-spanning scavenger hunt you can invest in, Inferno is astutely structured and glossily produced conspiracy/mystery entertainment. Ron Howard’s latest trailblazer is an intelligent, grandiose and elaborate blockbuster for a more patient cinemagoer who appreciates a dose of art history and theoretical humanitarian debate with their kiss, kiss, bang, bang.

CR@B’s Claw Score: 3 stars

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