Columbia Pictures
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten, Shockya
Grade: C
Director:  Ron Howard
Written by: David Koepp from Dan Brown’s novel
Cast: Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Ben Foster Sidse Babett Knudsen, Irrfan Khan, Omar Sy
Screened at: AMC Empire, NYC,10/25/16
Opens: October 28, 2016

“The Divine Comedy,” aka “Inferno,” is arguably the greatest work of Italian poetry and considered a masterpiece of world literature.  If anything is left of the author, buried in 1321, he’d be turning in his grave to see the gibberish that is made in his name.  “Inferno” is a convoluted mess of a movie, an expensive one with some terrific shots of Venice, Florence and Istanbul, all in the name of locating a glass container filled with a virus that, once opened, could wipe out half of humanity “within 47 days.”  In Dan Brown’s novel, the virus would sterilize a large segment of the population, a more humane choice than that served by this movie, all in the service of whittling down the world’s explosive population and thereby provide enough resources for the lucky, or unlucky ones who survive.

The concept of a too crowded populace was a nightmare to Thomas Malthus, who famously said that at the rate we were going, there would not be enough food on the planet  We see this concept exaggerated considering the average girth of, say, Americans.  But such does not convince a mad scientist, Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster), who comes across as almost normal on videos but whose message is anything but.  Zobrist believes that when the Black Plague of 1348 wiped out 1/3 to 1/2 of the population of Europe,that somehow paved the way to the Renaissance.  Think of how mass murder could make the world a paradise for the survivors, or so he thinks.

The third movie in the franchise, after adaptations of Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” and “Angels & Demons,” features Tom Hanks (Professor Robert Langdon), a noted art historian and solver of puzzles.  If you saw one of the posters advertising the film, you’ll note that he is running together with a beautiful woman, Dr. Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), the two setting out to find the location of the deadly virus before it’s too late. And run they must, chased by an assortment of folks including one female member of the Florence carabinieri, An Indian known as Harry Sims (Irrfan Khan) and a large black man, Christopher Bouchard (Omar Sy) who appears to be a supercop intent on cornering Langdon and Brooks.

Langdon has no idea why he is in a Florence hospital with a cut on his head which caused temporary amnesia, but he must be pleased to be cared for by the pretty, much younger Siena Brooks.  When a carabinieri starts shooting up the hospital, Langdon is helped to escape by the doctor, but not before Langdon imagines twisted bodies straight from Dante’s central casting, including people with their heads on backwards (in the 700-year-old poem, Dante meant that punishment for soothsayers, because he did not want characters looking to the future).

Sienna and Langdon have a grand time with Italian trains that would be the envy of our sad Metroliner , and also by planes and cars.  Zobrist, who is featured in the film’s principal twist, left behind clues that would direct seekers to find the virus, and Langdon is the man who should decipher the clues and end the threat to the world.

“Inferno” is a delight of cinematography, an exposure to the rich cultures of the Florence, Venice and Istanbul, but photography does not make up for the clear focus that the movie is sorely missing.

Rated PG-13.  121 minutes.  © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – C
Acting – C+
Technical – B+
Overall – C


By Harvey Karten

Harvey Karten is the founder of the The New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO) an organization composed of Internet film critics based in New York City. The group meets once a year, in December, for voting on its annual NYFCO Awards.

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