As someone that grew up around two big Dan Brown fans (my mother and grandmother), the crazy puzzle-filled world of Robert Langdon is one that I am no stranger to. However, when it comes to his adventures on the big screen, where he is portrayed by Tom Hanks and is guided by the directorial skills of Ron Howard, I find myself at a bit of a crossroads. Yes, these stories are entertaining on the page, but within the movie adaptations there seems to be an issue – a disconnect of sorts that comes from the production as a whole and can be blamed on many parties.
Unfortunately, the newest entry into the series – titled Inferno – doesn’t fix any of those issues, and seems to lead further into the reasons why maybe Mr. Brown’s work should be left to enjoy on the bookshelves, instead of the silver screen.
Inferno begins with a chase, in which a billionaire (played by Ben Foster) falls to his death. We then find our hero, Mr. Langdon, in a hospital with a gash on his head and little to no memory of recent events. Why is any of this happening? Well, someone wants to bring about a virus that’ll destroy human kind and “create hell on earth,” so to speak – and it’s up to Robert and a mysterious doctor (played by Felicity Jones) to solve the case and save the world – the usual.
From the Dan Brown perspective, Inferno is by far my favorite of his stories: It’s a simple, high speed thriller that definitely has its low points, but effectively works after you take in all of the facts and enjoy the usual banter that Langdon provides as a character. In contrast, in its cinematic adaptation, the life and overall excitement of the piece is lost from the moment we fade into the first shot. From then on, we (as the audience) go on one of the most boring, by the numbers sort of adventures imaginable.
Many will argue this could be the case for all of the Dan Brown adaptations, which essentially suck the life out of the discovery within the mystery of the novels, and result in a lot of Tom Hanks shouting things out loud into the void of Han Zimmer scores, and lots of close ups on his very tired looking eyes. Don’t get me wrong, Hanks is an American movie treasure, but Inferno proves yet again that casting him as Langdon was an odd choice – not “bad,” but just doesn’t provide the exact amount of charisma and attraction that the books allude to.
Granted, Inferno has us finding Langdon not in his top form – he’s been injured, possibly drugged, and can’t pull out his bag of magic tricks as easily as we’ve seen him do in the past. But even in that condition, it’s hard to have the audience believe that Robert wouldn’t remember what “coffee” is, yet would remember the password to his email address along with the order of the Dante’s Inferno painting? Come on, movie – I’m not that dumb and neither is Robert.
The rest of the cast, and everyone involved, try their best to make this a cinematic experience worthy of the current expensive ticket prices, but the more mysteries unfold and the bland delivery of said mysteries is heard by the audience, the more it becomes painfully obvious that no one on this crew cares about the movie, with one glimmering exception.
In a lot of reviews of Inferno, you’re going to hear the name Irrfan Khan mentioned. Why? Well, because he’s clearly the only person within the entire cast who gives a hoot about being in the movie, and more importantly, is having a blast in it. It’s a shame that he’s not a big enough star to get his own franchise (either within the Dan Brown universe or with something similar) but if you are looking for the only true reason to give Inferno a shot, Mr. Khan stands as the shining beacon of entertainment within the film’s sluggish, over two hour running time.
Unfortunately, the usual shining grace of the Dan Brown stories themselves are the pay-off within the mystery he’s telling, and Inferno‘s silver screen adaptation does not result in such a feeling of satisfaction. The “twist” within this tale, for the educated movie detective, is one that can be spotted from a mile away. Things don’t seem as they should, and facts add up way too quickly within the script that even a 5th grader could figure out the general idea of where things are headed. Come on, Ron and company – you’re better than this!
Overall, relying too much on the distracting elements of Khan’s fun performance, the beautiful scenario, and the over the top dream sequences, nothing can truly save Inferno from being one of the low points of the Fall 2016 movie season. Instead of retaining the “so bad it’s good” quality of some other films from this year, it falls more into a worse place in cinematic history: Forgettable. And that’s a worse crime than anything Dan Brown could conjure up in his mind.