Combustible Celluloid
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With: Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Irrfan Khan, Omar Sy, Ben Foster, Ana Ularu, Ida Darvish, Paul Ritter
Written by: David Koepp, based on the novel by Dan Brown
Directed by: Ron Howard
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, disturbing images, some language, thematic elements and brief sensuality
Running Time: 121
Date: 10/28/2016

Inferno (2016)

2 Stars (out of 4)

The Full Dante

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Like two other movies based on Dan Brown's books, this one showcases scenic locales and it appears as if smart stuff is happening, but it's all lifeless and empty, intended only for mass consumption.

In Inferno, which follows the events of The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, billionaire Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster) speaks about overpopulation and warns of disaster. Then he throws himself from a bell tower and dies. Later, professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) wakes up in a hospital in Florence, with no memory of how he got there. A lady cop bursts into the building, shooting at him, and his doctor, Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), helps him escape.

He discovers a clue in his jacket, a Faraday pointer that projects an image of Botticelli's Map of Hell. Langdon discovers inconsistencies in it, which turn into clues. Before long, he's on an around-the-world chase, looking for more clues in other artworks — including Dante's death mask — with the goal of finding and stopping Zobrist's ultimate plan: wiping out half the world's population with a deadly virus.

Screenwriter David Koepp, who has solo credit here, is less reliant than his colleague Akiva Goldsman on explaining every little thing in stagnant, inert scenes, as was the case in The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons. And so Inferno starts promisingly, but before long, it's apparent that director Ron Howard and the rest of his cast and crew can do nothing to disguise their apathy and boredom.

Hanks is likable as always, and character actor Irrfan Khan manages some starch in his scenes. But characters rarely connect on an emotional level, and they all simply seem to be working to get through their dialogue. By the time the movie stumbles toward its suspenseless conclusion, Howard and cinematographer Salvatore Totino have devolved into a shaky-cam mess, peppered with dozens of little flashbacks, that are all stirred into confusing mush. We can only hope that Mr. Howard made this with the promise that, next time, he can make something he cares about.

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