‘I’ ON CULTURE
Inferno is a hell of a bad movie. If you thought the original Dan Brown/Ron Howard/Tom Hanks movie The DaVinci Code was tough to sit through, this one breaks most records. Obviously, it was made because the key people involved wanted some nice paychecks, not because they had any idea of how a movie like this could be made.
Professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) wakes up in a hospital room in Florence, Italy, with amnesia. Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), his doctor, helps him escape an Italian policewoman who’s shooting at him, and they wind up at her place. He discovers clues that would seem to be important. One is a video of billionaire Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster) talking about mankind’s coming extinction because of population growth, and the second is a picture of Botticelli’s The Inferno, a painting showing a representation of Dante’s Hell (Inferno). Langdon spots changes in the work, clearly clues.
He and Brooks, who joins him for no apparent reason, run around Florence with the police and people from the World Health Organization chasing him. It seems Zobrist, before killing himself a few days earlier, had created a virus that would wipe out most people on Earth in order to save it for those few left.
The WHO, led by old girlfriend Dr. Elizabeth Sinskey (Sidse Babett Knudsen), as well as independent specialist Cristoph Bouchard (Omar Sy), wants the sample. After a nice tour of the Palazzo Vecchio, they pick up a clue and go off to Venice. After Langdon realizes where the virus sample is hidden, Brooks betrays him and takes off to start a global Armageddon. With help from a mysterious agent from a private security firm, Mr. Sims (Irrfan Khan), the movie follows the usual “we have to the save the world” scenario.
Hanks almost sleepwalks through the film, not surprising since his character is rather boring and the plot has enormous holes in it. The one standout in the cast is Khan, who has more class than anyone else. His character would be a far more interesting lead personality than any other shown here.
I have many quibbles with the film. First, there is the publicity given to the nutsy theory that the population is out of control and we are running out of food. Paul Ehrlich, who proposed the idea around 1970, also bet that the cost of resources would be insanely high. He was wrong on that, and population growth has slowed sharply in developed countries. The U.S. population growth over the past few years has come from immigration, not from large families. The largest population growth is in undeveloped countries, where we have far less control. But Hollywood, the greatest source of useless wasting of resources, worries about all of us.
Second, the plot holes are enormous. The billionaire has completed his work before he died and killed himself to avoid capture. Why didn’t he just release his virus before he died? Why did he wait, except for needing the time for the heroes to win? And why set up a complicated trail for his accomplice? Instead, he made it all wildly complicated for no real reason except that it allowed the good guys to win.
The simple answer is that the first movie in the series made money (mostly because it was based on a bestselling book, which made a fortune by combining Leonardo DaVinci with the idea that Christ had a family). That film was muddled. The following one, Angels and Devils, was boring, and this one is a mess.
Far too many films made are like this one. Someone — director, writer, star — has enough interest to get it made, and then people hang on, hoping they can get enough people to see it so they don’t take a loss. So far this year, I could count the number of Academy Award-worthy films on the thumb of one hand, and even that one, Sully, would be a real reach.
Happily, we are coming to the season where the good movies are supposed to start. I certain hope so, because this year has managed a few enjoyable films, but not much worthy of awards.
As for Inferno, run like hell away from it.