Over the past few years, we have seen an increase in number of films being made that are based on popular novels. While a film cannot fully encompass the breadth of characters, plots and sub-plots contained within a single novel, they more often than not convey manage to convey the story in an effective way. This week, we see the release of yet another film that is based on a novel with the Ron Howard directed film INFERNO hitting screens. But will the film which is an adaptation of Dan Brown’s third book in the series live up to expectations is what we analyse.
INFERNO starts off with Professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) waking up in a hospital in Florence, Italy, with no memory of what has transpired over the last few days. However, like the previous films, Langdon soon finds himself, the target of a major manhunt. With the help of Dr. Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones) and his knowledge of symbology, Langdon will try to regain his freedom and lost memories, all while solving the most intricate riddle he's ever faced. Much like the earlier films, right from the start, the viewer is thrown smack in the centre of the on screen happenings, with an action-chase sequence coming into play within the first five minutes. From here on what follows is a break neck race against time to contain what could be one of the biggest catastrophes to hit the human race. But unlike the previous film that features Langdon taking on the roots of Christianity and Papal law, INFERNO sees him going up against a crazed billionaire geneticist, Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster), who has invented the titular doomsday virus to wipe out half of the world's population.
Hot on the trail of bread crumbs, Langdon finds himself once again plunged into ancient culture, this time the focus being on the world of 14th century Italian poet Dante Alighieri's 'The Divine Comedy'. Aiding the professor is Dr. Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), who fast becomes the professor’s sidekick in the race against time. Adding to the already intriguing plot is director Elizabeth Sinskey (Sidse Babett Knudsen), from the World Health Organization (WHO) and her gang of armed operatives led by Christoph (Omar Sy), and the fixer Harry Sims (Irrfan Khan) who constantly try to apprehend Langdon. Though the film has all the makings of a brilliant thriller, the film seems rushed, with the main protagonist running across continents in a span of a couple of days.
Though the film does have its share of nail biting moments, INFERNO does not manage to live up to expectations that have been developed based on the previous films in the series. Considering that even the earlier films THE DA VINCI CODE and ANGELS AND DEMONS featured similar plot lines wherein Langdon races against time to undo the cogs of evil that have been set in motion, INFERNO does not feature anything new. In fact, after a certain point the viewer settles in for the journey already anticipating including not just the climax but also Langdon’s next move.
Coming to the performances in the film, Tom Hanks as usual does a stellar job of portraying the professor, continuing with the image that was well established in the first film. Langdon’s character stays true to the form being able to draw references from vague yet meaningful clues left behind. Felicity Jones as doctor Sienna Brooks does well in her role of playing Langdon’s sidekick, while at the same time keeping her reasons for assisting him well under wraps. Irrfan Khan, as the fixer for a powerful security firm entrenched in the shadows is present throughout the film, but in limited on-screen appearances. However, Khan does well in his given character exuding a sense of mystery yet definite power in his crucial yet limited role. Sidse Babett Knudsen as Elizabeth Sinskey, the director of the WHO is not really defined till the end when towards the climax the viewer understands who she really is. But the addition of a side plot of the relation between Langdon and Sinskey, though adding perspective could have been better handled.
Talking about the direction, Ron Howard, who over the years has given us visual extravaganzas, does it yet again, with a scenic, detailed view of each of the venues that Langdon is led to. While the short length of the film is a sore thumb, it seems to have forced the director into assimilating as much as possible from the book into a short time frame which hinders the narration of the story but it does add the much needed pace to the film. Despite this hurdle and the fact that the viewer more or less already knows how the film ends, Howard does an eloquent job of keeping the suspense while simultaneously building the crescendo to a gripping climax.
On the whole, though INFERNO, which is similar to the previous films that have been based on Dan Brown’s books, is predictable, the film’s narrative and sheer pace of the adventure unfolding on screen keeps the viewer hooked. At the box-office, the popularity of the franchise, the star attraction of Tom Hanks and Irrfan Khan and lack of competition will ensure good foot-falls.