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Friday, October 28, 2016




Robert Langdon wakes up in a hospital bed in Florence, Italy, befuddled, feeling like he got shot in the head. Buddy, I know that feeling. I sat through Inferno. The third in the Robert Langdon series based upon the Dan Brown novels, directed by Ron Howard, and starring Tom Hanks, Inferno literally puts the fate of the world in Langdon's hands. This time, there's a pathogen on the loose, created by crazy billionaire Ben Foster. Now, Foster may have a point that the world is dangerously on the brink of global over-population, but despite his obsession with (misquoting) Dante Alighieri, Foster seems like he's read too many Marvel Comics. Foster's pathogen, the Inferno (which, mind you, comes in a plastic bag), is designed to wipe out half the world's population in a matter of days. Hey, killing half the population is Thanos' thing. Ben Foster was a middling Angel in X-Men; he's sure as hell no Thanos.

Langdon is lured into this crazy, Dante Alighieri-based mystery puzzle plot by multiple forces who all seem 1) eager to shoot him and 2) eager to ask for his help, in that order. There's the World Health Organization, repped by Westworld's Sidse Babett Knudson, who used to be Langdon's sorta girlfriend. Then there's a shadowy "security" organization run by Irrfan Khan, last seen piloting a helicopter into a bunch of pterodactyls in Jurassic World. There are also two dangerous, gun-toting agents of mysteriously foreign origin and questionable allegiances, Omar Sy and Ana Ularu. Last but not least, there's Felicity Jones, the British emergency room doctor who saved Langdon when he was kidnapped and shot in the head. Jones is conveniently a "big fan" of Langdon and of "puzzles." She claims she met Langdon when she was nine years old, and for some reason she's gung ho about finding a killer virus. Something seems fishy about that, but Langdon, wobbly and confused for half the movie from his injuries, doesn't have the wherewithal to suss this stuff out this time. Langdon suffers from a unique affliction in Inferno: Half the Movie Amnesia, which he's conveniently cured of just in time to put all the clues together and foil the end of the world.

By now, we're wise to all this Dan Brown twisty mystery plotting based on academic research into history and antiquity. Inferno is as rote and mechanical as this hokum gets. Neither Howard nor Hanks seem remotely interested in the hoops Langdon must jump through to solve the puzzles in Inferno. Hanks zips through the exposition while suppressing yawns, and who can blame him? Compared to the "secret history" of the Knights Templar, Jesus Christ, Mary Magdalene, and the Holy Grail, there's none of the inherent juiciness in the history of Dante Aligheri that gave The Da Vinci Code what little pulpy fun it had. Nor does Inferno have the benefit of a scenery-chewing Sir Ian McKellan livening these dreary proceedings. Inferno whisks Hanks, Jones, et al to smashing locales like Florence, Venice, and Istanbul, but no one in the movie has the slightest bit of fun. Hanks and Jones seem perfectly resigned to being a mystery-solving duo completely absent of chemistry. Hanks contorts his face for the entire movie into his version of Dante Aligheri's Death Mask, and Jones sports an I'm Just Here for a Paycheck/Fuck This, I'm In Star Wars Now face throughout the entire movie. Inferno is super duper serious all the time, even when the survival of half the human race depends on Hanks winning a three way fist fight in three feet of water for a plastic bag of pathogen.