Anthony's Film Review

Inferno (2016)

Another outstanding thriller based on a Dan Brown novel directed by Ron Howard...

After writing the novels Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code, and having both of them adapted into films directed by Ron Howard, Dan Brown would write Inferno, another novel featuring Professor Robert Langdon played by Tom Hanks. Once I heard that Inferno would hit bookstores, I made a note to myself that, later on, I will not be surprised if Ron Howard eventually directs a film adaptation of Inferno. Given how I very much enjoyed the movie versions of The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons, I easily looked forward to the movie adaptation of Inferno. The only slight reservation I had was whether it would be so formulaic that it would feel like a rehash or repeat of the other two movies. I am happy to say that, as I will explain, this movie definitely does not feel entirely like the previous two movies. It has the spirit of them. Just not 100%. It's a mixture of what we're familiar with and some new surprises we haven't seen before in the Langdon series.

First and foremost, Inferno is not just a thriller combined with religious mystery. There is a third genre that is mixed in: the biotech thriller. The plot of this movie centers on a scheme devised by a mad biotech engineer named Bertrand Zobrist (played by Ben Foster). This man is deeply concerned about human overpopulation to the point that the human race will go extinct if the population reaches its critical point and all the problems stemming from it take their toll. His message to people concerned with environmental affairs can certainly be seen as insightful, but other people may be rightfully concerned about this man, because there is reason to believe that, in order to control the human population and save the human race, Zobrist has created a biological agent that, once released, will wipe out roughly half of the human population. This is one of those situations where one could argue that the end justifies the means, but there are those who firmly believe that any act of inhumanity, regardless of its goal, shall not be tolerated.

Now how does this fit in with Robert Langdon's knowledge of religion, history, and other related subjects and his ability to decipher clues and solve cryptic puzzles? Apparently, Zobrist has laid out his path to the whereabouts of his biological agent in the form of clues related to the Inferno, which is the 14th-century poem written by Dante that describes hell. But that's not the only reason this movie feels different and more fresh than The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons. This movie also throws in a second type of mystery occurring in tandem with the religious and historical mystery we come to expect with a Robert Langdon thriller. Rather than have Langdon called in to help decipher clues in relation to a police investigation, the beginning of Inferno introduces Langdon as a hospitalized patient who has retrograde amnesia and cannot remember the events of the last few days. That is, the movie's plot begins shortly after someone attempts but fails to kill Langdon.

So now we have the mystery of what happened in the recent past, not just the mystery of clues related to Dante's Inferno. Langdon has to figure out what happened based on fragmentary visions and dreams plus any items that he sees or possesses. Of course, another thing that helps is time, because as Langdon proceeds further in his investigation, his memory slowly clears so that, late in the film, he can finally all of the recent events with crystal clarity. So if you're worried that Inferno will feel so much like Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code, don't worry, because neither of those two films had situations like this one. And while we're on the topic of ways that Inferno departs from the previous two films, let me add another. Once again, Langdon is uncovering a mystery alongside a female companion. In the previous two films, the female lead had an occupation that was some type of investigator. This time, his female ally is a medical doctor, specifically the one who takes care of Langdon in the hospital. At first, Dr. Sienna Brooks (played by Felicity Jones) is there to care for Langdon, but once unexpected events occur in the beginning, she has no choice but to follow Langdon along and even help him crack the code of Dante's Inferno.

And you know what? Let's throw in one more reason Inferno is a refreshing departure from the previous two Langdon movies. There are two sets of characters who are urgently trying to catch Langdon before he escapes. One consists of members of the World Health Organization (WHO), presumably to make sure Langdon is alive and well so that he can help WHO recover and contain Zobrist's plague source. The other set consists of members of a secret society that, in a nutshell, likes to influence major events in hidden unconventional ways. You may expect one group to have good intentions (WHO) and another to have bad intentions (the secret society), but characters from each group act so similarly that you cannot tell which character is on which side. You don't know if there is a renegade member of WHO or if a member of the secret society is truly acting for the greater good of humanity (without actually agreeing with Zobrist's scheme). This ambiguity is something you can definitely expect to see for much of the film, because there are also some pretty startling revelations about certain characters, including one that I did not see coming at all.

Now that I've described the new elements, the ways in which Inferno feels like a fresh sequel, I shall now talk about the core elements. I can simply say this. Inferno is as thrilling as the previous two Langdon thrillers, especially Angels and Demons. So if you've seen those earlier movies, you can expect the same thing here. You can expect to be engaged by the moments when Langdon is making observations of paintings and historical artifacts in order to decipher something and determine the next clue to decipher. Alongside this, you have suspense and action scenes that are exciting to watch. Part of the suspense comes from the fact that the stakes are high. Langdon and Brooks know what will happen if they don't stop the plague. And it does get better and better over time, such that once the climax arrives, it is something that you cannot take your eyes away from. It's intense, riveting, and gripping.

Overall, this was a movie that I expected to be good, but I wasn't 100% sure if it would be a top-notch thriller like Angels and Demons, but now that I've seen it, I'm happy to say that Inferno meets the same standard. There was not a single dull moment for me. Every scene was something that I thought was done well, and as I've already described throughout this review, the structure and style of the plot is more original so that the movie avoids the problem of being dull from repeating an earlier Langdon thriller. Tom Hanks is great as usual playing Robert Langdon, Felicity Jones is also wonderful as Sienna Brooks, and I can say the same for the rest of the cast. Just for being an exciting and thrilling movie that seamlessly interweaves crime, science, history, literature, and the arts, Inferno is, simply put, a very entertaining movie.

Anthony's Rating:

For more information about Inferno, visit the Internet Movie Database.

In addition, check out my reviews of The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons.


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