By Mark Saldana

Rating: 2 (Out of 4 Stars)

Much like Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code before it, Inferno utilizes a wealth of European history, art and literature, blends it with real world issues, and spins it into a conspiracy-laden, mystery-thriller.  And much like its predecessors, the pacing and intensity of the film gets weighted down with these elements.  To be fair, I found The Da Vinci Code novel to be good, but not great.  I found its strength in author Dan Brown’s boldness to challenge conventions and develop his story rather intelligently.  Director Ron Howard and his writers did their best with the adaptation, but the material felt more sluggish when presented in a movie format.  

As for Angels & Demons, I did not actually read the book, but the movie plays out rather messily and lacks the more fascinating and compelling elements that made its predecessor much more watchable.  Well, director Ron Howard and actor Tom Hanks are back in theaters with another installment in the Robert Langdon series.  Though this film is much more interesting than the previous one, it still suffers from some of the same problems that plagued the other films, in addition to new ones.  Inferno the movie, is a step towards improvement, away from the mess that is Angels & Demons, but it still doesn’t quite match the level of fortitude and inventiveness that the first story has.

Professor of Symbology Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) awakens to find himself in a Florence, Italy hospital with his last memory placing him back home in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Disoriented, confused, and hazy, Langdon tries to make sense of his situation and remember how he ended up there.  His doctor, Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), attempts to help him remember and keep him calm, but just when he begins to relax, an attempt on his life is made.  This forces him and Dr. Brooks to flee from the hospital.  Once they are safe, they begin to piece together the clues, and Langdon soon realizes that he is in Florence to help stop a well planned and organized genocidal plot.

With a screenplay adapted by David Koepp, Ron Howard, once again, does his best to present what is probably another story better told in novel.  Brown’s attention to the details of history, art and literature just don’t play out as well in two-hour movie.  The Langdon character often spouts out his knowledge of these disciplines like diarrhea of the mouth, and this can fly over its audience’s heads.  This lacks the impact it would normally have for someone reading it on a page at their own pace.  The story’s connection with Europe’s beautiful history plays second fiddle to the conspiracy plot.  At least in The Da Vinci Code, the conspiracy is portrayed as part of history which makes it even more fascinating.

The movie also features an additional conspiracy subplot which makes everything even messier.  Langdon’s journey get unnecessarily convoluted, and one particular aspect of the story plays out transparently from the get-go.  To be fair, I do really like the Langdon character and how Hanks portrays him.  As much as I didn’t care much for the plot of the story, I still managed to care for Langdon and his fate.  Tom Hanks’s amiable presence helps tremendously in this respect and his performance here never falters.  The movie also features fine work by Felicity Jones, Omar Sy, Sidse Babbett Knudsen, a passionate and intense performance by Ben Foster, and a rather amusing turn by Irrfan Kahn.

The film has a mix of both intense action sequences and weak ones.  Some of the mystery and thrills are entertaining, while others fall flat.  The whole experience isn’t all terrible, but it isn’t an experience I’d recommend seeking out in theaters.  I am thinking fans of the books are probably better off sticking with the books, while those who only follow the movies might want to wait until they can see this one at home.  As I told my guest at the screening, after watching Angels & Demons, I just am not really invested in this series anymore.  The latest chapter did nothing to change this sentiment.



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