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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Oct 15, 2016

Inferno Movie Review: Not As Thrilling As "Da Vinci Code" And "Angels & Demons"

DAN BROWN’S “Da Vinci Code” was a big hit (earning $750 million worldwide) when made into a movie in 2006 with Tom Hanks playing the hero, art historian-symbologist Robert Langdon, so his next novel, “Angels & Demons” was also made into a movie in 2009 and although it’s not as successful, it’s still considered a hit after earning $485 million worldwide. Now comes, “Inferno”, another episode in Langdon’s European adventures once again based on a Brown novel and directed by Ron Howard.

It starts with a billionaire geneticist, Bertrand Zobist (Ben Foster), doing a lecture about the evils of overpopulation on our planet which now has 8 billion people. Then we see him willfully leaping to his death from the top of a bell tower in Florence (ala-Hitchcock’s “Vertigo”) after he was apprehended and cornered by his pursuers led by Christophe Brouchard (Omar Sy). who you’d initially think is the villain.

Then we see Hanks as Langdon taken to the hospital with a wound on his head. When he regains his consciousness, he seems to have developed amnesia and doesn’t even remember how he came to be in Florence. A female assassin then appears, hellbent on killing him. A young doctor, Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), then helps him escape from his pursuer.

They become partners in tracking down a deadly virus called Inferno, using clues from Dante’s epic poem. As they go on their mission, Langdon is disturbed by nightmarish visions of twisted bodies and faces, with blood exploding out of broken windows. It appears that he what he sees in his mind is a reimagining of Dante’s Inferno, as depicted by the Italian painter Botticelli.

Eventually, it becomes clear that Zobrist is a megalomaniac zealot who aims to kill one half of the earth’s population to save it, through the plague virus known as Inferno. He believes that the Black Death plague, that killed an estimated 200 million people in the mid-1300s, gave humanity the breathing space it needed and the chance to come up with the Renaissance. But he left clues about where he left the virus hidden in a the Botticelli painting “Map of Hell”, which leads to another painting, “The Battle of Marciano” in the Palazzo Vecchio and then at the Duomo and later to Venice and Istanbul, both World Heritage sites.

Along the way, Hanks get to meet Harry Sims (Irrfan Khan), the head of a shadowy private security and consulting firm and the World Health Organization’s own team headed by Elizabeth Sinskey (Sidse Babett Knudsen), who happens to have been romantically involved with Hanks before. Are they allies or are they adversaries? The truth about various characters will be revealed about two-thirds of the movie and you’d know who are the real good guys and bad guys.

If you’re a Dan Brown fan, no doubt you’d enjoy the movie and appreciate all the cloak-and-dagger conspiracy theories incorporated in it. But if you’re a Dan Brown detractor who thinks his works are trashy, you’d sneer at his pedantic references to culture and history, which is, in all fairness to him, obviously the result of thorough research. Never mind if he’s a best-selling author who has made millions and millions from his novels.

The movie’s main ace is, of course, Hanks as the Harvard professor, Langdon. Now 60, he’s always a likeable screen hero even as Forrest Gump, Sully, Captain Phillips or the Castaway. Although expertly crafted (you’d wonder how they shot those lengthy sequences in very crowded tourist spots, particularly in Venice’s St. Mark’s), the fact remains that as a thriller, “Inferno”, is not as engrossing and suspense-filled as “Da Vinci Code” (about the search for the Holy Grail) and “Angels & Demons” (about the election of a new pope, the killing of four cardinals and an element called the anti-matter).

We were honestly bored by many “laylay” sequences. But then, if this makes money (it’s opening in the U.S. at the end of October yet), then for sure, there will be another Robert Langdon flick and we won’t be surprised if “The Lost Symbol” would be the next one in the franchise.