Ron Howard’s latest release, Inferno is a perfect example of why people flock to movie theaters across the globe, escapism. Audiences are transported to Italy and are given a front row seat as Cryptologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) is wrapped once more in a puzzle of lies and deceit, centered around the poet Dante and his writings concerning hell. Is the Inferno a perfect film? No, but any film that can both keep me engaged and has an entertaining narrative as well is certainly worth seeing this weekend.
The film starts with a chase scene involving Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster) and an agent of the World Health Organization. The World Health Organization has learned that Zobrist is in possession of a virus that could wipe out half of the world’s population and they want to contain it. Zobrist is a religious nut who believes in the ideological views of the Italian poet Dante and how this world is turning it an overpopulated hell. Rather than tell the agent where he’s hidden the biological agent, he decides to jump to his death, thus protecting its location.
We cut to a scene where a very battered Langdon is recovering in hospital from injuries he doesn’t even remember receiving and to make matters worse he’s having hallucinations that seem to be from a postapocalyptic world that most humanity fears. He quickly becomes acquainted with Dr. Brooks (Felicity Jones), but the pleasantries are cut short when gunfire erupts in the hospital, and they have to run for their lives.
Of course, this sets off a series of chase scenes that span most of the film as Langdon is trying to not only make sense of his memory loss but also locate the biological agent by using clues found in Dante’s poem “Inferno.” To make matters complicated, he learns that in 24 hours the virus will be released into the open. While it’s clear to me, this whole narrative at best can be described as ridiculous, but the film still managed to draw me in.
Perhaps it was Hanks himself whose performance drew me into this movie. This is now his third attempt at playing cryptologist Robert Langdon, and he seems to be just now getting into a groove with this role. In the first two films, we saw Langdon as more an authoritative figure who was one step ahead of everyone else. Inferno humanizes Langdon and shows the audience he’s as vulnerable as anyone else.
David Koepp seems to have learned from the mistakes he made writing the screenplay for Angels and Demons and has cherry picked the best parts of Dan Brown’s book and intertwined it with some thrilling action sequences. No longer are we sitting through a film hearing Langdon gives a theological rationale as to why the bad guys want to kill him. Sometimes the best course of action is keeping it simple. Ron Howard/ David Koepp have moved away from trying to stay true to Brown’s source material and shifted the focus towards developing a balanced film.
One of my biggest pet peeves is when a movie tries to be something it clearly isn’t. Inferno isn’t trying to win awards or to make any “political statement.” This movie is simply an entertaining two hours that will leave you satisfied. Sometimes escapism isn’t a bad thing.