Inferno begins with an ethical quandary: “There is a switch. If you pull it, half of humanity will die. If you don’t, the human race will go extinct in 100 years.” The words are uttered by Ben Foster’s eccentric millionaire Bertrand Zobrist just before he plunges himself from a tower, backed into a corner by a pursuer wanting some sort of confidential information.
Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) wakes up in a hospital, delirious and hallucinating deformed people and a black plague-era doctor. He thinks he is in Boston, but he is in Florence. Of course, there is little time for explanation, as someone dressed as a police officer is after him.
Inferno is perhaps the most immediate of Ron Howard’s Langdon franchise of films. At the very least, it is the most furiously vibrant in its hallucinatory visions that are, for the most part, visually gratifying if not repetitive. The desperate whispering that accompanies them: a bit much.
Other aspects of the film are a bit much, as well. Tight framing that shave off edges of characters’ heads gets old and ill-effective as a result. Redundant explanations that question audience’s intelligence dampen pacing. Logical leaps that fill gaps in convenient ways are eye-rolling.
These smaller faults are apparent in the beginning of the film, but otherwise the film springs to a thrilling start. Watching the first half hour alone, and one may be fooled into thinking this is the most taut installment in the Dan Brown adaptation trilogy.
Then, of course, there is plot development. Quickly, the film becomes something too trying and logically ridiculous to be pleasurable. The pacing and action elements are there throughout and are effective. When paired with a plot that slides farther down the levels of narrative Hell, though, and the best that Inferno can do is try and pick up the pieces.
He is not putting in the work that he did in Sully, but Hanks’ skill has become normalized at this point in his career. He is entertaining here, as always, as is Felicity Jones beside him. Similarly, Foster’s limited role is good, although far less poignant than his turn in Hell or High Water from earlier this year.
There is something compelling about these Dan Brown-adapted intrigue flicks. There is also something mind-numbingly silly about them. Plague-level terrorism thwarted by puzzle solving at the level of simple anagrams and literary studies is, well, hard to take seriously.
Even when one can suspend their disbelief for the sake of this logic ridiculousness and various plot holes, Inferno falls victim to tired plot twists and a third act that not only lacks a pulse but is already suffering from rigor mortis. If you somehow have the unlikely pleasure of seeing this film on a screen that shorts out after 30 minutes and you get your money back as a result, this is the best way to view this film. There is quite simply very little of interest in the film after the first 30 minutes, and following the trail only gets more disappointing as the thread unravels.
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)