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Sunday, December 11, 2016


Are we done with this series yet?

This review is also up at Channel 24

What it's about

The third film in the Robert Langdon series, Landon wakes up in a hospital in France with no memories of what he's doing there or how he got there. It's not long, however, before he and the doctor treating him find themselves on the run for their lives from the followers of an eccentric billionaire who believes that the only way he can save the world from overpopulation is by wiping out most of humanity.

What we thought

Ron Howard's adaptation of Dan Brown's the Da Vinci Code was rightly criticized for being a laboriously boring and badly lit conspiracy thriller but, by the sheer force of the madness of the conspiracy at the centre of the film, I couldn't help but have a bit of a soft spot for it. I have real trouble believing damn near any conspiracy I've ever heard but I tend to find they make for good fiction; the more far out the better, of course.

Following that, we had Ron Howard once again taking a swing at one of Brown's airplane reads, Angels and Demons, and without so impressively nutty a conspiracy at the centre of it, it had to rely on actual filmmaking to pack any sort of punch. Fortunately, Howard lightened his touch and greatly upped the sheer daftness of what was going on on-screen, resulting in a totally rubbish, monumentally stupid and actually kind of fun popcorn flick whose action-hero-priest-laden final act has to be seen to be believed.

Here was are, once more, with Ron doing Dan to absurdly stupid results but unlike the Da Vinci Code it has no nutso conspiracy to drive it forward and unlike Angels and Demons, it seems to be much less self-aware of its own rubbishness - which was really the only saving grace of its immediate predecessor. Sadly, there's just nothing whatsoever to recommend about Inferno beyond some nice, hellish imagery - that actually ultimately doesn't really have all that much to do with the story anyway.

The entirety of its interminable runtime is given over to switching between utterly unthrilling chase scenes and loads and loads of really boring exposition where a bored Tom Hanks tries to explain the plot to a similarly uninterested Felicity Jones and, inevitably, the audience. It all leads up to the most uninteresting showdown since Batman V Superman and the promise that they might actually make another one of these godawful movies. Fortunately, the box office takings so far suggest that that might actually not be the case.

The real question here isn't so much why these films are bad (beyond the central hook of the first film, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that one out) but why such talented people have anything to do with it.

Tom Hanks is a national treasure whose usually terrific in whatever project he does – most of which of late have been pretty solid – but Langdon is such a nothing of a character that even all of Hanks' considerable charm can't breathe life into one of the most boring academic-action heroes in cinema history. Indiana Jones – and, yes, there are definitely some unfortunate echoes of the ludicrously enjoyable Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade here - he most definitely isn't.

And then there's Felicity Jones. From her brilliant turn in the recent Stephen Hawking biopic, the Theory of Everything, to playing the lead in the next Star Wars movie, Rogue One, (which, in a perfect case of ingenious timing, comes out next week), I simply have no earthly idea what she's doing in this g-grade turkey. And, by the general lack of commitment to this unbelievably thankless role, clearly neither does she.

Ifran Kahn, like Ian McKellen before him, is the only person in the whole case who looks like he's having fun at all with his small role here but he's not in it enough to help things along at all.

As for Ron Howard, here's a guy who has always been rather spotty but has put out some excellent films over the past thirty years. Indeed, at the same time this comes out, his Beatles documentary, Eights Days a Week: The Touring Years is out on DVD/ BluRay and it's pretty damn wonderful. His work in Inferno, though, is the very definition of flat, uninvolving and uninspired. David Koepp's witless script is bad enough but Howard's lifeless direction does nothing to elevate it.

Boring, stupid, uninspired and wasteful of plenty of real talent, Inferno does at least live up to its name – in that you'll want to set it alight right after you've seen it.

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