Michael Simon ‘19 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Ten years have elapsed since the first time Tom Hanks took to the screen as protagonist Robert Langdon in the series of movies based off of Dan Brown’s successful novel franchise. With these mysterious, intellectual, and puzzle-driven adventures having brought Langdon all throughout Europe in 2006’s The Da Vinci Code and 2009’s Angels & Demons, it’s certainly welcome to see the character and the world around him return to the big screen. After a seven-year gap between films and a complicated negotiation that nearly cost the franchise their main star as well as their director, Ron Howard, Inferno hit the screen with style, even if it was, as some might say, a bit much.
The story hits the ground running, as the viewers meet a very distressed Professor Langdon in a hospital, being treated for a severe head wound that is causing amnesia. His dutiful nurse, Sienna Brooks—played by a wonderful Felicity Jones—looks after him and keeps him safe once assassins inexplicably show up looking for Langdon.
While the amnesia aspect is, at times, treated for cringe-worthy laughs, it becomes an extremely interesting method for telling this story. With so many people and organizations in play, it was genuinely fun to find out the information along with Langdon as the past became clearer in his mind. The aura of mystery and intellect that the series has done so well was certainly not lost here, as the heroes scavenged through beautiful European settings to uncover ancient mysteries in order to stop a deadly attack from taking place.
The story itself was a welcome departure from what this series normally does; both of its prequels focused heavily on the overlap—or lack thereof—of science and religion. That was all, more or less, moot here, as the story instead focused on biological threats and choices of morality.
Hanks and Jones make an excellent team as two very good people who suddenly get mixed up in a very dangerous situation that neither of them was prepared for; their interactions with each other as well as with those they come into contact with are done very well. One standout scene involves Hanks’ Langdon reporting a robbery to a museum, only to awkwardly review the security footage with Sienna and museum security and see that the thief was none other than himself in his state of amnesia.
While the two leads are powering the movie with grace, the supporting cast does an excellent job of staying on the same level, making each and every character enjoyable and interesting to watch. Omar Sy plays Christoph Bouchard, a gruff agent of a secret operation searching for Langdon. Irrfan Khan’s mysterious character, Harry Sims, runs a private security with an awful hidden secret. Sidse Babett Knudsen has a fun turn as Elizabeth Sinskey, a government official trying to control the chaos. And finally, Ben Foster plays the intricately plotting and morally complex antagonist, Bertrand Zobrist—the antihero with the plan and the method to control overpopulation. With every twist and turn of the plot and the narrative, these characters are made ever more interesting because the audience is never quite sure which ones are trustworthy.
Now, of course, the film is not without issues. While the direction is fine for the most part, one glaring problem is the overuse of a shaky-cam and jump-cut system to heighten the tension. It works for some parts, but other times the film just begins to feel like a horror movie, as if the director was afraid the audience would suddenly lose interest and thought that the only way to solve this was to transport the audience into Dante’s Inferno itself. For all of the intensity that Inferno brings, it definitely could have benefitted from more moments of levity, rather than constant anxiety. Lastly, as with any book-based film, there is a major issue in terms of how this adaptation fumbles the ending, and, while the movie reaches a satisfying conclusion, a huge opportunity was missed by opting out of the original source material.
Overall, Inferno is told in a fun and exciting way and is brimming with great side characters that support its excellent leads. While some may claim that it’s overstuffed and overly complicated, Inferno ultimately fits very well into the story of Robert Langdon.
Overall Grade: B
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