Sunday, October 30, 2016

Movie Review - INFERNO (Review #2)

Inferno is the third film in the Robert Langdon series, based on the books by best-selling author Dan Brown, directed by Ron Howard. It stars Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Ben Foster, Irrfan Khan, Omar Sy, and Sidse Babett Knudsen. This film finds Robert Langdon in a hospital struggling to remember things that happened in the last couple of days. He then gets drawn into a situation where he has to solve a puzzle based on art and history to discover a plague before it is released killing a large portion of the world’s population. I enjoyed this series of books (though I have yet to read Inferno) and really liked Angels and Demons (more on that on Tuesday!). This film was wildly disappointing for me and is the worst of the series thus far.

Even in a film that disappoints me, there are some positives and this film definitely has some. First, the performances. Tom Hanks is Tom Hanks and that is never a bad thing. Though he isn’t working with great material he still brings personality to the screen that made the film watchable throughout. Felicity Jones was also really solid for most of the movie. I really enjoyed the subtleties and shifts in her performance and it makes me even more excited to see her in A Monster Calls and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story later this year.

Howard also has some cool shots in this film and some fascinating design work. He has a lot of interesting historical monuments and landmarks to capture and he does a lot of really cool things to peel back the layers on them and make them look cool on screen. There are also some “vision” elements in the film that depict elements from Dante’s Inferno that were really neat. At times they felt incongruous with the film (and certainly do with the series) but still had some cool art design that intrigued me.

Inferno fails ultimately, unfortunately. For starters, it goes back to the flashback/flash-out device that was a staple (and problem) in The DaVinci Code rather than focusing on the forward moving narrative which made Angels and Demons far and away the best film in the franchise. These sequences really had me all over the place and made me exponentially less invested in the main story. Additionally, the film is purposefully confusing throughout and, unlike the other films in this series, I don’t think you can figure out the next step like you could in those films. This is problematic in a mystery film where figuring out the twists can be some of the fun and I think that this film in some ways deprives you of that.

The film also goes for a very grandiose level that made the whole underlying premise hard to buy into. Unlike in The DaVinci Code where the film gives you a clear reason to distrust the government agents (or Angels and Demons which goes the other way) this film just kind of expects you to understand the fugitive, on-the-run nature from the get-go with really no explanation. This took me out of the film quite a bit and I couldn’t empathize with the choices Langdon was making. It also expands to a global level rather than a single mystery which didn’t work as well when you’re thinking about this random symbology professor gallivanting around the world.

The last thing I want to critique is how poorly the action was shot in this film. It was extremely difficult to understand and to follow. You don’t imagine that these films are tremendously action packed but even the limited action contained within was poorly executed and that really hurt my impression of this film.

Overall I found this film rather disappointing. It won’t be the worst film I’ve seen all year but instead of continuing on the upward trend the series was taking this is a serious step back and is, for me, the worst in the series. I think they are probably going to be done and we’ll never see The Lost Symbol adapted which is shame. That said, if it’s like this, I would rather leave it alone.

Ryan’s Score: 3.5/10

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