"A Race Against Time"
What You Need To Know:
INFERNO is mindless fun that still makes viewers feel kind of smart since it teaches them about art in a way that entertains and excites. The movie has limited foul language. However, there are several very intense, scary hallucination sequences where Langdon sees demons, people writhing in pain and a giant river of blood. There’s also a quick bedroom scene. So, although INFERNO is more positive than the previous Langdon movies, strong caution is still advised.
(B, C, PC, E, L, VV, SS, M) Light moral worldview with some discussion about Botticelli’s depiction of Dante’s Christian version of Hell, plus some politically correct talk about overpopulation, though one villain’s solution to this alleged environmental problem is lightly rebuked as extreme; six obscenities (including one “f” word and three “s” words) and one GD; strong action violence includes fake police woman shoots and kills innocent people while trying to kill the hero, character falls to their death through a roof, a couple car chases and several foot chases, scary chase scene across some precarious roof beams, a drone races after the hero and his female doctor, an explosion goes off in an attempt to release a deadly plague, a violent medieval battle scene between men with swords and staffs beating and stabbing each other (which is rooted in another painting), and hero is drugged to experience scary hallucinations of Hell with demons leaping toward the screen, sinners writhe in agony and a huge explosion creates a river of blood; partially depicted clothed fornication; no nudity; no alcohol use; no smoking or illegal drugs but hero is drugged so he loses his short term memory for a while; and, villain wants to wipe out half of the world’s population and there are differing factions of international agents, some of whom are corrupt.
INFERNO is the third movie in a series depicting the adventures of religious symbology professor Robert Langdon, who’s trying to decrypt codes hidden in a painting inspired by Dante’s “Inferno” to stop a global plague.
Once again, Tom Hanks stars as Robert Langdon, a professor of religious iconography and symbology from Harvard University. In 2006’s THE DA VINCI CODE, he was engaged in a race for the legendary Holy Grail in an abhorrent Anti-Christian plot that caused controversy by positing that Mary Magdalene was the bride of Christ and bore him children who carried on a line of descendants into the present day, an idea that’s blasphemous to Christian belief.
The second movie, 2009’s ANGELS & DEMONS, had Langdon racing against time to solve a murder and prevent a terrorist act against the Vatican. While that movie was a fun lark as the professor solved one improbable clue after another to save the day, it was also patently ridiculous to anyone, who takes Catholicism seriously. However, the Vatican newspaper gave the movie its seal of approval as entertainment after condemning DA VINCI CODE.
INFERNO is a big improvement over both movies. This time the stakes are raised to involve a threat far beyond solving a religious mystery or a terror threat against a religious institution, to encompass an existential threat to the planet.
The movie opens with the sudden suicide of Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster), a billionaire scientist who rails against the threat of overpopulation. Zobrist has secretly planned to release a deadly virus called “Inferno” that could wipe out half the planet’s human populace within days.
Cut to Langdon awakening in a hospital room in Florence, Italy, utterly disoriented and unable to process even the slightest sound without having an agonizing headache. He’s lost all memory of the previous 48 hours, and his mind is filled with horrific visions of a river of blood, people writhing in agony and demons everywhere. Just as he starts talking to his doctor, Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), and tries to figure out what’s happening, a female dressed as a police officer comes barreling down the hallway like a Terminator, with guns blazing. She forces Langdon and Sienna to go on the run.
Langdon discovers a device called a “Faraday pointer,” which is a miniature image projector, in his pockets and finds that it projects an altered version of Sandro Botticelli’s painting “Map of Hell,” based on Dante’s “Inferno.” They soon realize this is the first clue in a trail left by Zobrist to locate where the virus is stored. They also realize they’re being chased by both legitimate and rogue World Health Organization agents, as well as Italian police. All of these competing forces are trying to get their hands on the virus to destroy it or release it.
The result is an almost non-stop race across Florence and the rest of Italy, combining breakneck action with historic locations and impromptu lessons in art history to create a popcorn thriller that makes audiences feel smart as well as entertained. Hanks is in fine form and having a blast dishing out arcane information about codes and symbols at the same time he’s running for his life or engaged in dangerous escapes from a slew of people who want him to give up his information and then wish him dead. Felicity Jones, a British actress who had her American breakthrough with an Oscar-nominated turn as Stephen Hawking’s wife in 2014’s THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING, proves to be a fun sidekick to Hanks. She brings welcome depth to a key moment in the movie.
INFERNO has limited foul language. Also, most of the action is standard-level violence with no blood shown from shootings or one character’s deadly, steep fall. However, there are several very intense hallucination sequences where Langdon sees demons, people writhing in pain and a giant river of blood. He comes to realize these hallucinations are rooted in depictions of Hell, as seen in a Botticelli painting inspired by Dante’s “Inferno.” There are also a couple of quick flashes of grim medieval battle footage. The movie neither mocks nor contradicts these visions of Hell. This makes INFERNO a refreshing change of pace from the previous two movies, especially THE DA VINCE CODE.
Director Ron Howard returns after helming the first two movies in the series. He deftly handles the action and the intellectual content. He also employs a diverse cast of distinctive-looking actors whose faces alone make viewers wonder who’s a hero or villain, which is a touch that adds to the movie’s fun.
All in all, INFERNO is mindless entertainment that still makes viewers feel kind of smart since it takes them through some of Europe’s great art institutions and teaches them about art in a way that entertains and excites them rather than bore them to tears in the vein of a college lecture. INFERNO may prove popular enough to heat up the box office for a few weeks. Strong caution is still advised, however, because of the violent, scary images, brief foul language and a quick bedroom scene.