Dan Brown has had a bad rap over the years from snobbish reviewers who dismiss his work as “trash”. I’m sure to a large degree the multi-millionaire Dan Brown couldn’t give a toss! I personally enjoyed both the books and Ron Howard’s films of “The Da Vinci Code” and “Angels and Demons” as glossy escapism. Occasionally though books will generate a “WHHAAAT??” moment and Brown’s 2013 novel “Inferno” generated just such a response in its dramatic conclusion… and (for me at least) not in a good way. As someone always looking at script potential in books, the words “unfilmable” came to mind. So veteran screenwriter David Koepp (“Jurassic Park”, “Mission Impossible”, “Spiderman”) is to be congratulated in ‘adapting’ the story to provide a coherent screenplay.
But unfortunately it’s still arrant nonsense.
The film starts in promising style with famed symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) waking in hospital to horrific visions of hell on earth with only the attractive young nurse Dr Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones) to soothe his nerves. A serious head wound prevents him from remembering the last 48 hours which makes it a bit tricky when a “Terminator”-style female cop (the striking Romanian actress Ana Ularu) arrives to try to kill him. Fleeing the scene, Langdon follows a typically convoluted trail of puzzles in a race to find the location of the source of a plague that if released will devastate the world’s population. In the process he has to dodge police, World Health Organisation (WHO) staff and members of a shadowy “private security organisation” trying to catch him.
The problem with the story is that it has a plague-sized hole in its plot. The actions of the main protagonist of the film, Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster, “The Program”), make absolutely zero sense. If he wanted to achieve his aims he would have just done it! (“No, Mr Bond – I won’t shoot you now”). Laying a devious cryptic trail for others to follow makes even less sense, particularly as he is even seen (in flashback) to be not very good at that! Quite bonkers!
Unfortunately, the more you ponder the story, the worse it gets, and it is this that fatally drags the film down despite all the good work that Hanks, Jones and director Ron Howard try to counter-balance it with.
For there are elements on the positive side of the scales. The Italian and Turkish scenes (in Florence, Venice and Istanbul) are gloriously filmed with lush colours and exotic and evocative locations. Tom Hanks is as solidly reliable as ever in the Langdon role, and its great to see Felicity “The Theory of Everything” Jones in a leading role before she disappears into obscurity again (humour: “Rogue One” is released in December).
The supporting cast is also of great quality. Sidse Babett Knudsen (“Borgen”) is Dr Sinsky, leader of the W.H.O. (not credited – as memorably done with Peter Capaldi in “World War Z” as “Doctor, W.H.O.”!). Irrfan (“Jurassic World”) Khan is striking as the mysterious and authoritarian “Provost”. And Omar Sy (who made such an impact in the brilliant “The Intouchables”) plays the lead W.H.O. officer in pursuit of Langdon.
Hans Zimmer again provides the soundtrack, with his beautiful series theme cleverly working its way into the music as Langdon’s memory returns. However, at various points the music become overtly noticeable, intrusive and not to my liking. A bombastic choral reworking of the theme over the end titles is stirring though.
In summary, a glossy and nonsensical disappointment.
Fad Rating: FFf.
Agree? Disagree? Always happy to hear your comments.