By Esosa Omo-Usoh
Inferno reunites Director, Ron Howard, and vintage wine Hollywood A-lister, Tom Hanks, in the third installment of author, Dan Brown’s cryptic symbology and puzzlecalypticnovels adapted to movie trilogy. It has been 10 & 7 years respectively since The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons were released.
In the Da Vinci Code, the goal was to destroy Christianity by revealing the real truth about the Holy Grail. In Angels & Demons, that ambition was narrowed down to destroying the Vatican City with a stolen vial of antimatter. In Inferno, the ambition assumes a grander scale; the annihilation of half of mankind via an engineered plague.
A crazed Dante-obsessed Billionaire geneticist, Bertrand Zobrist (played by Ben Foster), worried about the exponential growth in the world’s population and the apocalyptic consequence it portends given the limited resources available to all of mankind, comes up with a solution taken right out of the Malthusian playbook for population control.
Long before Zobrist came up with his crazed idea, Rev. Father Thomas Malthus had propounded the theory of exponential population growth. Whilst Rev. Malthus had urged a moral restraint in curbing population growth, Zobrist was partial to a more radical approach; a deliberate curbing on an apocalyptic scale by the release of a virus that would decimate half of mankind.
Inferno opens with Zobrist being pursued by unidentified assailants. They corner him atop a bell tower in Florence, Italy. But rather than give himself up, he jumps to certain death. From thereon out, Inferno’s fast-paced race to resolution begins with barely any room spared for a breather.
Inferno follows the formula of its predecessors; a death mystery opener, a barrage of rubik’s cube puzzle-type conspiracy theories, a run around chase through touristy locations, a eureka-moment denouement with a twist no one saw coming and then the final resolution culminating in the rescue of humanity from destruction.
Tom Hanks reprises his Harvard Expert Symbologist, Prof. Robert Langdon but this time with a noticeable absence of the zing he brought to the character in the previous two installments. This could be attributed to the ennui induced by the memory-distorting serum injected into him in the movie. Or perhaps, this could be natural lethargy in Tom Hanks from having played this character in two previous installments.
As a crazed Billionaire Geneticist with an Abrahamic God complex, Ben Foster gave a mildly impressive performance. I am still smarting from his impressive turn in Hell or High Water. So, I will blame the lack of a more impressive performance in Inferno on the overall lack of fire power in the movie (pun intended).
The best part of Inferno was Irrfan Khan as Harry “The Provost” Sims, the head of a security organisation called The Consortium. In Inferno, he brought that indescribable but recognizable Khanish feel to his character. It’s there in the bulgy-looking eyes that arrests your attention. The subtle but powerful presence that announces that you are experiencing the commanding aura of a thespian who knows his craft.
He has got a leading man aura and the fiendish deliciousness of a movie villain. And that voice; it speaks of self-assuredness and an awareness of one’s gift as an actor. He has got a range that will dance comfortably through a field of lilies in Bollywood and effortlessly steal the show in Hollywood. Irrfan Khan is one of Bollywood’s gifts to Hollywood (along with Priyanka Chopra and Shah Rukh Khan).
Inferno had the trappings of a suspenseful mystery thriller, enough to leave a tingling sensation in your feet as the movie plot unfolded but it all seemed too hurried. The puzzles were more expected than surprising, and the immediacy of their resolution just detracted from the shock factor.
The twist left you with a “but of course!” instead of a “what? I didn’t see that coming!”. Like its predecessors, the heightened expectations built up from the intro just fizzled out to a whimper at the end. Inferno had all the ingredients to start a conflagration but was only able to achieve that singular blue flame that shoots out when you flip a cigarette lighter.