Verdict: Falls short of the benchmark set by the earlier Langdon films.
When the world was first introduced to Robert Langdon on screen, we were held spell-bound. Not just by the charm Tom Hanks brought to the role, but by the world of theological and literary trivia that Dan Brown immersed us in. The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons (both directed by Ron Howard) set a high standard for integrity of plot and direction. They pulled us into the Euro-centric world even if we didn’t relate to it. Sadly, the same cannot be said for Inferno, and it is for lack of trying.
Inferno is the tale of Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster), a bioengineer & billionaire, who has taken it upon himself to save the Earth and humanity from the plague of overpopulation, by spreading a virus that will halve the human population. Being pursued, he jumps to his death to prevent this virus from getting into the ‘wrong’ hands (!). But not before putting a timer on it, and using Dante’s Inferno to leave clues to its location (!). And as you may guess, Robert Langdon is the man called upon to solve these clues. But that’s in the past. The film starts a few days into the future, with Robert in a hospital bed in Florence, with a head wound and partial amnesia. He has visions in which he sees hordes of people, blistered and bloody, all around him. But he has no time to dwell on these as an Italian policewoman attempts to kill him. He manages to escape with the help of the English doctor (Felicity Jones) who was treating him and follows his work. And when he gets back on the infernal trail of the deadly virus, she joins him. They run around Europe looking for it, while being chased by several interested parties (Who doesn’t want the means to commit mass murder, as Omar Sy’s character says).
The tone of the film never leaves you in doubt of their success, with few surprises along the way (one really good one, though). The narrative is fairly linear, with no parallel plots, to thicken the soup. This wouldn’t be an issue if the primary plot was free of loopholes and clichés, but that is not the case, from the premise to the long drawn-out climax. Nor are the dialogues or interplay between characters likely to impress, with one remarkable exception.
Irrfan Khan’s character, dialogues and performance are the highlight of this movie. He breathes sparks of life into all his scenes, and makes you wish that his role had been more substantial. Which is not what you expect to be feeling at the end of a Tom Hanks movie.
The film leaves you with many ‘ifs & buts’. If only the story and screenplay were richer. If only the characters were more three-dimensional. If only the last two films hadn’t set such a high standard. But that was not to be.
Why You Should Watch This Movie:
If you love the treasure hunt-type of movie, then give this one a go. It has a strong and pertinent message to convey, even if it stutters in the saying of it. And Irrfan Khan’s performance will have you wondering if the time hasn’t come for an Indian Robert Langdon.