Friday, 21 October 2016


This Dan Brown twaddle about a killer virus is a crushingly dull ‘thriller’

Written by Jason Solomons

Reprising the character of Robert Langdon for the third time is obviously giving Tom Hanks nightmares. At the start of Inferno, he wakes up drenched, bloody and having flashbacks to some kind of medieval battle re-enactment. What is he doing in this hospital bed and why can he see the Duomo of Florence from his window?

Suddenly, Felicity Jones is standing in front of him, saying she’s Dr Brooks and that he’s suffering ‘mild retrograde amnesia’. Hanks simply stares back as if this is not the script he’d signed up for.

Hanks is such a fine actor, but even he can’t make pompous Professor Langdon interesting. Even he must know the biggest literary riddle of all is how Dan Brown’s pseudo-historical twaddle ever became such a phenomenon.Film-Jul17-JasonSolomons-176

We don’t have time to dwell on the vagaries of publishing and bad writing because a gun-toting female member of the carabinieri is arriving and Brooks and Langdon must embark on a touristy jog that will see them through the rest of this terrifically tiresome movie, like following the world’s least romantic couple on a weekend break.

Langdon has delved into his coat pocket. Where you or I would come out with some bits of fluff, he has found a secret capsule thing (‘a bio-tube, government issue, thumbprint-recognition enabled’) inside which is a hollowed-out bone called a ‘Faraday pointer’, which in turn projects an image of Botticelli’s map of hell illustration on to the wall. However, this image of Dante’s vision has been altered, some letters placed on various characters’ legs and heads. What could it be? ‘An anagram,’ concludes Brooks.

Soon enough that hot carabiniera is back, this time with an armed task force from the World Health Organisation, as well as some obscure Euro actors barking orders and looking worried. There’s Omar Sy (from that French movie the Intouchables) and Sidse Babett Knudsen (from Borgen) playing Dr Elizabeth Sinskey, who may or may not have had a relationship with Langdon but that – like everything here – is ancient history.

Langdon is off again, with his age-inappropriate companion, bunking over the wall to the Boboli Gardens (they pronounce it ‘bobbly’, like an old jumper), pursued by a WHO drone. (Hang on, I hear you cry, the WHO has guns and drones?)

Directing a Dan Brown adaptation also for the third time (the Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons), Ron Howard allows all manner of contrivances to pile up, relying on the script’s constant references to Dante’s Divine comedy to make people think: ooh, this is clever.

Inferno isn’t just a Dante reference, however. Oh no, it turns out it’s also the name of a killer virus that crazed technology billionaire Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster) has invented and is about to unleash on the world, a 21st-century Black Death plague to save the planet from over-population.

So Langdon and Brooks dash off to a few more baroque locations – Venice, Istanbul – while people keep stepping onto the screen and counting down how long until the ‘deadly pathogen’ is released.

Felicity Jones, so admirable in The Theory of Everything, comes to an untidy end here and, although she can hardly be blamed for the general farrago, she doesn’t bring much excitement to the proceedings.

As for the world-shattering, boil-in-the-bag plague, Knudsen’s WHO boss has got that covered with a handy Perspex box that doesn’t look like it could keep the school hamster contained.

Inferno has very little to recommend, its crushing dullness not even alleviated by laughable silliness. Not scary, not funny, devoid of tension and lacking any semblance of character development or spark of sexiness, Inferno is movie Purgatory.

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