Friday 28 October 2016

Review: Inferno

Cert: 12A / 121 mins / Dir. Ron Howard / Trailer

Okay, here's an example of how the internal plot-logic of Inferno works. Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), the celebrated professor of religious symbology and iconography, awakes in hospital with a head-trauma from a bullet-wound and suffering intermittent hallucination-flashbacks. After hurriedly escaping an assassin who comes to finish the job, he discovers he's carrying a flashlight/projection image of Botticelli's famous Map of Hell painting, inspired by Dante's Inferno: the image of the netherworld which has (and the script even says this) defined how humanity has envisioned Hell for the last five centuries.

As the famous and revered expert looks at the famous and much-studied painting, he notices a letter, "R" has been branded into the leg of one of the figures in the painting on one of the levels of Hell. "That's not part of the original", he gasps. His sidekick and co-adventurer, Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones) then pipes up "Look, there's another letter on a figure in the layer above, too!". They realise that there's a letter on each level of Hell in the painting, left as a clue for Robert to decypher. Fair enough.

Then they suddenly notice more additional lettering, this time at the bottom of the painting. Not scattered about as above, just a regular line of text curved around the pivotal globe. In instantly recognisable English. That they didn't notice when they were picking out individual letters from the hubbub of the layers above.

Then Robert says "And the layers of Hell are in the wrong order, too! Someone's swapped them around!". Now, if you take a gander at the painting, you'll see that due to the concentric nature of the levels, you wouldn't just be able to cut and paste this around in Photoshop. There'd not only be a lot of content to lose, there'd be loads to magically generate for the upper, wider levels too. It's going to look very different from the original.

So, our learned lecturer on religious symbolism has been looking at one of the most definitive, cryptic artworks of all time for about four minutes before realising that everything's in the wrong order, is made-up, and has a message written on it.

Now, you could put this down to the character having recently sustained a consciousness-altering cranial injury. Or you could put it down to Dan Brown's writing*1. They appear to be the same thing…

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
Well, The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, I imagine.
Full disclosure, I hadn't seen either of those two films until last weekend. Despite Ron Howard's publicity-trail assertions that Inferno can be enjoyed as a standalone movie, I figured I needed to watch the earlier entries for the sake of context if nothing else. Yeah, they're not great, are they?
Although from a certain point of view, Ron was absolutely right. As Inferno unravels through its many scenes of exposition, setups and twists, it feels like a kid who's been told to read their homework in front of the class, except they haven't done their homework so they try to ad-lib a story as they go, quickly descending into a context-free rollercoaster of narrative incoherence. In that respect, you can absolutely watch Inferno without seeing the earlier films; it will make just as much sense…

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
Well, Robert's hallucinatory-flashbacks are one thing, but the accompanying Concussion-Cam™ which punctuates those scenes threatened to induce a migraine before the film hit the ten-minute mark. If you fancy that on a massive screen, go for it…

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
Clearly, I am the wrong person to answer that question.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
No. It's not even the best film in this series.
And like I said, they're not great

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
No, because if you enjoy this one then you're probably a fan of the previous two movies and I'll (genuinely) enjoy your explanation as to why they're not slapdash drivel.

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't.

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: This film's got Jyn Erso in it.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Although Mr Brown wrote the source-novel, David Koepp is credited with penning the screenplay here. Although I can only imagine such a pivotal plot-device is lifted from the original book. If you know otherwise, please tell me; I'd hate to be taking the piss out of Dan Brown's literary prowess unduly…

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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