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INFERNO – A Hankering For Something Al Dante

inferno-tom-hanks-felicity-jonesDirected by Ron Howard
Starring Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Irrfan Khan

Author Dan Brown’s scholarly hero Professor Langdon is back once again to tear across Europe solving Renaissance art puzzles in an attempt to save the world from shadowy forces.

This time the world is threatened by a virus created by a rich industrialist, in an attempt to save Earth from overpopulation. Langdon (Tom Hanks) wakes up in a hospital, shot, without any memory of the past few days and with a vital clue to the location of the virus. Chased by unknown assailants, the professor and his doctor’s (Felicity Jones) only hope of saving the world is in deciphering the clues left behind in a map of Dante’s Inferno.

Inferno is everything you would expect from the franchise; lots of slow paced running through scenic European locations, a good dose of art history, and a conspiracy theory 101 plot. In many ways it is easier to like the National Treasure franchise because at least it acknowledges how silly its base material is, rather than treating it with po faced solemnity. However Inferno embraces Brown’s material and makes a great stab at bringing it to the screen.

Here a deficit in plot is mitigated by the talent involved. Howard brings to life Brown’s vision, with a great eye for exotic historical locals and some well constructed pacing. Hence Inferno is certainly richly appointed, as Langdon flits from museum to museum, as he seeks to solve this latest puzzle and stay one step ahead of the conspiratorial forces pursuing him. Langdon’s Dante inspired apocalyptic visions are also compelling, raising the stakes and creating a sense of impending doom.

Hanks does a fine job as Langdon, imbuing him with both a quick wit and an occasionally sharp tongue. He seems comfortable in the skin of the character for this third outing. However it is Irrfan Khan that steals the show, as the head of a shadowy evil organisation. His matter of fact delivery is so effortless, that he sells what should be an absurd concept with ease, turning it into a riveting performance.

All of which would be fine, if you place your brain in neutral and not think about the plot. It is here Inferno flickers out. The basis of Langon’s treasure hunt often flies in the face of logic, and as the audience is reminded of this the film’s stakes decrease. Oddly enough Brown’s original ending works better than the filmic version, and these changes rob the climax of its impact.

A solid film, built on somewhat shaky ground. Entertaining enough if you don’t examine it too closely.

DAVID O’CONNELL

 

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