Friday, November 4, 2016

Inferno - Movie Review

Title: Inferno
Year: 2016
Director: Ron Howard
Writer: David Koepp
Cast: Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Omar Sy, Irrfan Khan and Ben Foster
Bias: I read the book.

"The greatest sins in human history were committed in the name of love." - Robert Langdon

Dan Brown is one of those authors that knows what his fans want and then delivers it to them in spades. The formula for his books is quite simple: have an interesting mystery full of puzzles to solve, write short, action-packed chapters so people can't put the book down, sprinkle a couple of cities and their art and history, and viola. Obviously, this is a slight oversimplification, although it goes to the heart of it all.

In contrast, the films based on the novels don't tend to enjoy the same level of easy craftsmanship that the books enjoy. The characters tend to be uninteresting on screen and the action never really translates to the page. Those same problems plague the newest Robert Langdon adventure. Langdon (Tom Hanks) is a Harvard professor that teaches symbology and iconology and one day finds himself waking up in a hospital with a head wound and no idea how he got there. Dr. Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones) saves his life and they both find themselves embroidered in transhuman scientist Bertrand Zobrist's (Ben Foster) plan to help the world's overpopulation problem by releasing a virus that will kill most of human kind. A bunch of other people are also looking for the virus for different reasons.

The most interesting thing about this film is the one thing that was touched for a second and then forgotten. Would you kill 3 billion people if it meant saving humanity? The moral quandary is dismissed derisively by the characters and it is never touched fully, except to make it seem like a crazy thing. Moral questions of these kind are interesting to me, and while I know it might not be interesting to watch, I would have liked to see them think about it for a moment.

To me, not having the moral discussion worked against the film as it just makes the film become the 'good v. evil' trope we are so used to. It also totally misses the whole point of the book which it was based on.

In technical aspects, Ron Howard is very good, as he always is. The shots of Venice, Istanbul and Florence are breathtaking, especially the artwork and architecture. The actors seemed to be dozing off, even while running around. I've never really liked Hanks as Robert Langdon and Felicity Jones matches him in a passionless and unconvincing portrayal. Even Hans Zimmer score felt passionless.

I will give this film 5 Mickey Mouse wristwatches out of 10

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