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Inferno (A Movie Review)



INFERNO (2016)

Starring Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Ben Foster, Irrfan Khan, Omar Sy, Ana Ularu, Ida Darvish, Paul Ritter, Paolo Antonio Simioni, Alessandro Grimaldi, Fausto Maria Sciarappa, Robin Mugnaini, Vincenzo Tanassi and Alessandro Fabrizi.

Screenplay by David Koepp.

Directed by Ron Howard.

Distributed by Columbia Pictures.  121 minutes.  Rated R.

Interesting trivia fact #1.  In over 30 years of acting, Tom Hanks has only filmed two live-action sequels (we’re not counting animated films, where he was in all three Toy Story films.)  Both of those sequels – Angels & Demons (2009) and now Inferno – are based on Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon novels, the best known of which is The DaVinci Code (2006).

Interesting trivia fact #2.  As a director for over 40 years, Ron Howard has also only done two sequels.  (As an actor he also did one, More American Graffiti.)  And those two sequels are the exact same films.

The novels of Dan Brown have turned out to be pretty fertile ground for Hanks and Howard.  In fact, they have filmed three of Brown’s four novels (with a fifth Langdon novel due next year) about the puzzle-solving globe-trotting Professor of religious iconography and symbology.  (Only the 2009 book The Lost Symbol has not made the leap to the big screen.)

Howard and Hanks actually started with the second novel, turning the 2003 blockbuster best-seller The DaVinci Code into a 2006 film.  The second Langdon film was actually kind of a prequel, at least book wise, when they released a movie of the first book of the series, Angels & Demons (2000), as a 2009 movie.  (While the original Angels novel obviously took place before The DaVinci Code, the plotline was finessed a bit to make it seem like it happened afterwards.)

Seven years (and two novels) later, we return to the film series, taking on the most recent book, Inferno, which became a best-seller in 2013.  (I suppose the box office take of Inferno will decide if they go back to do book three or move forward to the next one, or just let the series sputter out as a trilogy.)

The film version of Inferno is pretty faithful to the novel.  It jettisons part of the book’s dark ending, which may have been a wise move.  But otherwise, it is a fine adaptation of a terrific thriller, and a bit of a relief after the lackluster Angels & Demons.

If you know anything about Brown’s stories and you have heard the title, you may very well have figured that Inferno is an action film based on a historical puzzle based upon Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy (a/k/a Dante’s Inferno).

In the film, Professor Langdon finds himself mysteriously in Florence, Italy, with a case of amnesia and having graphic and horrifying hallucinations that seem to have something to do with fine art and religious lore.  When a killer tries to kidnap him from a local hospital, his gorgeous young doctor (Felicity Jones) saves him and helps him hide.  As his memory slowly comes back, he finds he’s in the middle of a dark mystery that revolves around Dante’s death mask, a recently deceased billionaire, the World Health Organization and a mysterious group threatening to release a plague on the world.

The only way Langdon can save the world is by doing what he does best, figuring out a cryptic puzzle which revolves around the work of Dante and makes him travel through several scenic European locations.

You know what you are getting from a Langdon film, and Inferno is smart, knotty, exciting, thought-provoking and entertaining.  It’s a bit of a mish-mash of high and low culture (as are all of Brown’s stories), but it’s also damned fun.  And in the end, that’s all that really matters.

I hope that Hanks and Howard keep returning to this well.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2016 All rights reserved. Posted: October 28, 2016.

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