Robert Langdon awakens in a hospital room in Florence, Italy, with no memory as to what has transpired over the last few days. He suddenly finds himself, again, the target of a major manhunt. But with the help of Dr. Sienna Brooks, and his knowledge of symbology, Langdon will try to regain his freedom, and lost memories, all whilst solving the most intricate riddle he's ever faced.
That thud you heard last year was the sound of 'Inferno' arriving at the American box office. Despite making a nice amount overseas, the movie was nothing short of a dud here, pulling in only $34 million domestically (the prior Langdon movie made $133 million in 2009 dollars, which is about $153 million in 2016 dollars). So to say 'Inferno' was a big disappointment for Sony is putting it mildly, but honestly you can't really blame the film itself. While it nowhere near ranks as one of my favorites of the past year (and it was one of my most highly anticipated movies), story-wise it's on par with the previous two installments, with all the good and bad that entails.
The movie is based on the fourth Robert Langdon book in Dan Brown's bestselling series, with everyone involved wisely choosing not to adapt the third novel, 'The Lost Symbol', primarily because (this is my guess) that the book's story is too closely similar to the Disney hit film, National Treasure 2. Not that 'Inferno's plot is completely original, as it focuses on a madman wanting to unleash a global plague that will kill off half the world's population.
The movie actually opens with a number of interesting twists – starting with the fact that the primary villain in the movie, Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster), commits suicide rather than being captured in the story's opening moments. This results in a rare instance of a movie where the lead character is trying to stop a bad guy's evil plot even though the villain is already dead. The other twist is that our hero, Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks, returning to the role for a third time), begins the movie in the hospital in Florence, Italy, where he awakens to find himself with amnesia. Things have happened to him in the last couple of days that are vital to this story, but Langdon has no memory of them...allowing the audience to find out the answers at the same time the character does in the story.
These Robert Langdon films (as well as the books they're based on) always seem to team the professor up with a younger (and always attractive) female partner, and this time around her name is Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), who is the doctor tending to him when Langdon awakens at the beginning of the film. Zorbrist has left a number of clues behind to where and when the virus will be released (Why? How else can our hero stop it from happening?!) and they all have to do with Dante's Divine Comedy (which talks about Hell), something that both Langdon and his new partner know a lot about.
If you've seen one of these Robert Langdon films before, I don't have to tell you how things go...as he and Sienna head from one picturesque location to another, with each one providing a new clue about the virus and where to head next. Once again, each action sequence (the pair is being chased by a number of different organizations, including the local police and the World Health Organization) is mixed in with long-winded pieces of exposition by Langdon, during which he explains out loud how everything fits together, lest the audience not be able to keep up with it all.
This is all pretty silly – albeit at times entertaining – fun, and again, pretty much on par with the prior two Langdon movies that Ron Howard has directed. Without spoiling the conclusion for those who desire to check out this title, I will say that I was quite upset with the ending here – which screenwriter David Koepp has changed from the original novel. The book has a much more ambiguous conclusion, while Koepp's version ties up everything in a nice, neat bow. Did the filmmakers think American audiences would groan at a more nuanced conclusion to the story? Given the box office performance, it's really a shame they weren't more loyal to Dan Brown's novel, as it probably wouldn't have made much difference anyway.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Inferno' heats up on home video with this Blu-ray/Digital HD combo pack. The 50GB Blu-ray disc arrives housed inside a blue eco-Lite Vortex keepcase, along with an insert containing a pair of codes – the first for a digital copy of the movie and points toward Sony's Movie Rewards program, and the other a promo for $4.99 titles online. A slipcover with artwork matching that of the keepcase slides overtop.
The Blu-ray is front-loaded with an ad about Sony Blu-ray (the digital version offered in your purchase and Sony's Movie Rewards program), plus trailers for Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, Passengers, The Magnificent Seven, and 'Beyond Valkyrie: Dawn of the Fourth Reich". The main menu consists of the same image that is on the box cover, with menu selections horizontally across the bottom of the screen.
The Blu-ray is Region A locked.
Although the first two Robert Langdon movies were shot on film, Director Ron Howard makes the switch to digital for 'Inferno', shooting on the Arri Alexa XT. The aspect ratio is also opened up this time, with Howard opting for a 1.85:1 image, as opposed to the 2.35:1 (or 2.40:1 on home video) of the prior two films. This gives 'Inferno' quite a different look its two predecessors.
The image here is quite impressive, with a lot in terms of detail. The cityscapes of the various destinations in the movie are well-defined, as are facial features – perhaps a little too much, as every wrinkle and imperfection on star Tom Hanks's aging face can be made out here. I detected no problems with aliasing or banding, which is noteable given the amount of frequent camera movements Director Ron Howard and Cinematographer Salvatore Totino make throughout. Black levels are also quite solid, actually showing improvement over the prior two shot-on-film efforts, which always had a touch of problems with shadow delineation.
While the 4K release of 'Inferno' treats buyers to a wonderful Dolby Atmos track, the featured audio here is only DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Which is not to say that this isn't still impressive audio, with all the fun (but a little less of the punch) of that Atmos track. There's some wonderful use of the surround speakers here, both for ambient sounds and to provide a little creepiness to Langdon's various flashback/vision sequences in the movie. The drone sequence is still my favorite part of the audio, as it zips from one speaker to another, and Hans Zimmer's score is also nicely rendered – never drowning out the audio, which is primarily up-front, aside from background voices.
In addition to the lossless 5.1 track, an English Audio Descriptive Service track is also available, along with a Spanish Dolby 5.1 track. Subtitles are an option in English, English SDH, and Spanish.
'Inferno' is about on par with the prior two Robert Langdon films – nothing spectacular, but certainly not worthy of the lackluster reception it received from American audiences. The bottom line here is if you liked the first two movies, you'll probably like this one, and if you didn't, you probably should pass on it. But with Tom Hanks giving another solid performance and the quality video and audio of this release, at the very least it's worth a look.