While the first two Ron Howard-Tom Hanks collaborations adapted from Dan Brown’s stable of mystery thriller novels managed to tap into the gleefully OTT trashiness of the source material, the belated Inferno conversely trades campy thrills for inane banality and poor filmmaking craft.
Professor Robert Langdon (Hanks) wakes up in an Italian hospital with no memory of the last few days, and is forced to team up with Dr. Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones) to piece together his missing memories while putting a stop to the apocalyptic designs of a crazed scientist, Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster).
Rest assured, that premise reads as a lot more fun than Inferno ultimately is. Shot in the most workmanlike, unfussed of means by Howard, it largely plays out like a naff two-hour pilot for a hollow FOX thriller procedural, complete with the infuriating abundance of close-ups that such productions usually invite. Arguably even worse is the amount of blatantly re-dubbed dialogue present throughout, especially whenever Irrfan Khan is talking (and ironically, he’s pretty much the only actor here who doesn’t completely phone in his performance).
Plot-wise, it’s all total nonsense of course, but lacks the fun thrall of either prior movie; there’s nothing remotely as memorable here as Ian McKellen’s cameo in The Da Vinci Code nor Ewan McGregor’s turn as a parachuting Pope-to-be in Angels and Demons. Instead, the immensely inconsistent David Koepp pens a largely joyless, self-serious script that immerses itself deep in dull breadcrumb-following while barely placing a single bead on anyone (especially not Jones’ Brooks) as an actual, developed character.
Hanks is fine here but basically just mails it in, which is a shame (if still understandable) given the sturdy career resurgence he’s enjoyed over the last few years. As far as blatant paycheck roles go, he doesn’t embarrass himself, even if many will doubtless be hoping for his tenure as the symbology professor to now be done (though the early box office grosses pretty much suggest otherwise).
Criminally wasting a solid cast (especially Ben Foster, who isn’t given nearly enough screen time to put on a Crazy Acting clinic) while also failing to muster up even some passable, base action sequences or robust visuals, Inferno is by far the least enjoyable and most aggressively bland effort of the trilogy. Without our prior knowledge of the series, it’s almost impossible to believe this slapdash mess of flat cinematography, ropey editing and lame shot selections came from a Best Director Oscar winner.
In a word, rancid, if occasionally perversely, unintentionally funny.
Inferno is in UK cinemas now and US cinemas October 28th