Here’s the thing: Inferno the movie doesn’t have any interest in the cities and histories that it’s dealing with. The apathy fairly drips from the screen. It rushes from building to building, from name to name, but there is no real meaning behind any of it. There is no weight, no feeling of mystery or wonder. The only thing that made me wonder was whether director Ron Howard merely read a tourist brochure, shot some aerial footage and moved on.
By now I can hardly remember The Da Vinci Code as a movie, but wasn’t there a sense of discovery in it? Of hidden knowledge about ancient mysteries, lost in time, guarded by secret organizations? Didn’t that movie end in a small-scale, intimate setting, in which we, the audience, were privy to transforming knowledge and discovery? I believe it was an historical mystery, infused with action. Inferno merely pretends to care about the whole history element. It is a thriller that tries to float on name-dropping.
I happen to have been in Florence exactly one year ago, where I retraced the steps of Robert Langdon, because I had read Inferno exactly one year before that. Florence is a miracle of a city. There is a hidden walkway, only to be used by the Florentine nobility, that exits the Palace from the top floor, crosses the street over to the museum, runs all along the upper floor of the museum, then snakes along the riverfront houses, crosses the river on top of the Vecchio bridge, joins up with another palace and finally descends to the Boboli gardens. It’ll hurt your neck to follow it on foot. In the film, we merely see Langdon enter a secret door in the garden and then he exits in the palace. Exciting? No.
The story goes on about Dante and the plague and the Venetian Doge, but at no point does it really connect with any of it. Robert Langdon has no real need to be a professor, because his knowledge is hardly called upon. Visually, the movie is highly disorienting as well. There is no sense of place or location. One moment we are in a museum, then we are in basilica, and we need to play catch-up why we are where we are. Speaking of disorientation, the action scenes are shot with a lot of shaking and chaotic editing. In general, the movie seems afraid to let people take a breather.
Tom Hanks is solid as always, so is Felicity Jones. But Hanks sort of stumbles through the adventure and it is all resolved before he really has to exert himself. You could imagine that Langdon flies back to Cambridge and complains on Monday about having had a heavy weekend. The best role and performance goes to Irrfan Khan as the Provost. His dry, businesslike demeanor is coupled with economic movement and a violent goal-oriented character. He was both chilling and comedic, and the highlight of the film for me. Hans Zimmer reprises some of his old music from The Da Vinci Code but didn’t feel inspired to create anything new.
In typical Ron Howard fashion, the teeth have been pulled from the ending. The whole movie fizzles out in an anticlimax. All in all, I expected better. This looked like an uninspired rush job. Felicity Jones probably shot her scenes as a side job because she was working on the new Star Wars Rogue One movie, and Hanks just looks tired. There is no magic to be found here. Next film please.