Pretend that Jason Bourne is a professor / historian instead of super spy and you’ve basically got the setup for this movie. Inferno is the sequel to Angels and Demons, which was the sequel to the Da Vinci Code but the first thing I’ll flag is you don’t have to have seen the others for this film, as in the first act the slate is wiped clean, when Tom Hanks’ Robert Langdon is hit with a severe case of amnesia. And after watching Inferno, I almost wish I were too.
It hurts to type this, as Ron Howard is one of my favourite directors, and overall the movie isn’t too bad, it just falls below the par of the previous instalments. Points, however for each sequel being unique and self contained, but still very idiosyncratically a Dan Brown Novel film.
When Robert Langdon wakes in a hospital bed, confused and with a head trauma, he meets Sierra, played by Felicity Jones who is the treating doctor. It isn’t long into their conversation that a hit-woman posing as a police officer barges into his room in an attempt on his life. What follows from here is a cat and mouse two-hour chase scene across Italy and Turkey. Langdon must retrace his steps with Sierra and ultimately tackle his biggest puzzle thus far – his own memory. Simultaneously dodging local police, an underground (and evil) spy consortium and of all people; the World Health Organization.
Why the W.H.O you ask? Well our McGuffin for the film is a virus, created by a James Bond villain version of Elon Musk, who is obsessed with culling the Earth’s population. Through twists and clues, he maps out where the device is – but of course only the symbols expert Robert Langdon can decipher it, who at this point is struggling to even remember what coffee is, let alone decoding an edited painting of Dante’s Inferno – an apt metaphor for a ‘baddie’ whose intent on creating ‘hell on earth.’
What keeps the film interesting is the pacing and audience manipulation, genuine plot swerves and misdirection, as well as clever shooting and proper spy thriller tropes throughout. What makes the film lackluster is a poor supporting cast, below average character development and overall not delivering like the previous movies – even Hans Zimmer seems to have phoned in the soundtrack on this one.
It is still a stimulating story, with legitimate twists and an unconventional structure, and the villain’s machination is cool (albeit his motivations which sink in, overpopulation is a serious real-world problem) but trying to keep up with the story is a challenge, where you have characters who start good, turn bad, then good again, others who are bad and turn good, another who is good and turns bad, and Inferno itself, which at points takes turns at being both good and bad, but lingers more on the latter.