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Inferno

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Inferno is an awkward beast. The plot of Dan Brown’s novel is the stuff of popcorn thrillers – race against time, huge stakes, mismatched protagonists, enemies both individual and institutional – but as with previous Brown adaptations, the unique selling point is the art history and symbology that Professor Robert Langdon periodically exposits about. Squeezing multiple references to Dante’s Inferno, along with various other works of art, as well as a multitude of scientific data and personal dramas to boot, into a taut thriller is therefore a tall order. Unfortunately, director Ron Howard and screenwriter David Koepp flounder in this adaptation of an already overstuffed novel. Langdon (Tom Hanks) wakes up in a Florence hospital with head trauma and amnesia, before he and Doctor Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones) go on the run from gun-toting enemies. Various groups with mysterious motives pursue them, a deranged billionaire recently committed suicide, and there are three different Infernos. One is the epic poem, rendered in various forms; another is the McGuffin that everyone wants to find; the third appears in Langdon’s apocalyptic hallucinations that have the aura of visions. These sit uncomfortably with the high tech used by the pursuers, who despite this equipment are thwarted by trees and people running. Character motivations are skimmed over with little concern for coherence, consistency or clarity, the action sequences are unnecessarily melodramatic and, despite its pursuit element, the film lacks pace as many of the great plot revelations appear at moments when everyone else has just happened to slow down. Only Irrfan Khan emerges unscathed, his dry wit injecting some much needed levity into proceedings that are otherwise overblown yet ponderous. I could be more annoyed by the film, but frankly it doesn’t seem worth it. Everyone involved can do better, and hopefully will do next time.

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