Richard and CP24 anchor Jamie Gutfreund have a look at the weekend’s new movies, Tom Hanks as symbologist Robert Langdon in “Inferno,” two of the best movies of the years, “Moonlight” and “The Handmaiden” and Ewan McGregor’s directorial debut, “American Pastoral.”
Richard sits in on the CTV NewsChannel morning show to have a look at the weekend’s new movies, Tom Hanks as symbologist Robert Langdon in “Inferno,” two of the best movies of the years, “Moonlight” and “The Handmaiden” and Ewan McGregor’s directorial debut, “American Pastoral.”
This weekend professor of religious iconology and symbology Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) returns to theatres in Inferno, the third movie in the Da Vinci Code franchise.
In 2006 the fictional Harvard prof made his big screen debut, uncovering the complicated personal life of Jesus Christ in The Da Vinci Code. Three years later he used his knowledge of symbology to unravel the mystery of a secret brotherhood called the Illuminati and thwart a terrorist act against the Vatican.
In between those two movies I received dozens of outraged emails, long tracts regarding Dan Brown’s books, the up-coming movie, The Illuminati and the veracity of the stories.
In response to the anxious folks who contacted me, concerned the film, which had not been released yet, would be a dangerous piece of anti-Catholic propaganda, I wrote a forward to my Angels and Demons review, pointing letter writers toward the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano. They described Angels and Demons as “harmless entertainment which hardly affects the genius and mystery of Christianity.” Their review noted it is filled with historical inaccuracies but went on to suggest that one could make a game of pointing out all of the film’s historical mistakes.
In other words, don’t take it seriously and you’ll have a good time. Despite the Vatican newspaper’s warm embrace, the film still ignited a firestorm of criticism from people upset about the story’s alleged anti-Catholic sentiments, “malicious myths” and churches being associated with scenes of murder.
Inferno sidesteps religious controversy with a tale of a deadly virus that threatens all of humanity, but cinema and religion have often made for uncomfortable pairings.
In 1999 the Catholic League denounced Dogma’s tale of two fallen angels (Ben Affleck and Matt Damon) trying to get back into heaven as “blasphemy.” More recently uproar erupted over Darren Aronofsky’s unorthodox take on the story of Noah. Jerry Johnson, president of the National Religious Broadcasters, loudly objected to the film’s “insertion of the extremist environmental agenda.”
Perhaps the most controversial religious film ever was The Devils, based on Aldous Huxley’s nonfiction book The Devils of Loudun. Years before Ken Russell made the movie, a filmmaker approached Huxley wanting to turn the story of a radical 17th century French Catholic priest accused of witchcraft and burned at the stake, into a film. Huxley said, ‘Don’t do it. Don’t make a movie out of this.’ He thought there was no way the story could be presented in an entertaining way without short-circuiting people’s minds. Turns out maybe he was right.
Forty-five years after its release Russell’s film is little seen but much talked about. Banned, censored and still unavailable in its complete form on Blu-Ray, the movie’s graphic church orgy offended many—and was cut to pieces and removed by censors—but it’s more than shock and titillation. It’s a film that makes a serious statement about the struggle between church and state but does so in an entertaining and provocative way.
Lots of movies contain violence or sex or religion, but Russell mixed all three together in one toxic cocktail. If released today The Devils may not inspire riots in the streets, as it did in 1971, but if presented in its complete form the following indignation would make the Angels and Demons protests seem tame.
A better title for “Inferno,” the latest big screen exploits of symbology professor Robert Langdon, might have been “The Da Vinci Code: This Time it’s Personal.” Not only must Langdon, once again in the form of Tom Hanks, confront an old love but he also must dig deep into his shattered memory to piece together the clues of his greatest mystery ever.
Or something like that.
The convoluted story begins with bioengineer and billionaire Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster) spewing his extreme theories on the planet’s problems. “Every ill on earth can be traced back to overpopulation,” he says. In the space of just twenty four hours Zobrist drops out of the picture, and Langdon is found disoriented and put under the care of Dr. Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones). “What am I doing in Florence?” he asks. Suffering from retrograde amnesia and terrifying visions of a hellish nature, people with heads twisted back to front, seas of fire, pools of blood and serpents, he struggles to remember the events of the last forty-eight hours.
With the help of Brooks he goes on the run from a determined assassin (Ana Ularu) and the World Health Organization until he can gather the clues that will lead him to the Inferno Virus, a plague planted by Zobrist to cull the world’s population by half. “Humanity is the disease,” he cackles, “Inferno is the cure.”
Add in close calls, narrow escapes and clues hidden in Italian antiquities and you have “Inferno,” the thriller with no clue how to be thrilling. Instead it’s two hours of exposition, a lesson in Botticelli and Dante. Whatever thrills there were to be mined from David Koepp’s script are blunted by director Ron Howard’s habit of showing and telling clues and info over and over, not trusting the viewer to be able to follow along. With convoluted clues and lots of Italian names and places to keep track of “Inferno” repeats information ad nauseam.
This is the third time Hanks has played Langdon but in the fullness of time I don’t think we’ll look back on the symbologist as the actor’s most memorable character. He carries the movies, which have made hundreds of millions of dollars, but he’s less a character then he is an exposition machine, an explainer of obscure history, a purveyor of aha moments. Hanks is a charmer, but he’s done in trying to wade through the movie’s scripting mire.
Sharing the screen is Jones, soon to be seen in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” As Dr. Brooks she is Langdon’s intellectual match and one of the dual engines that keeps the story plodding along, but spends most of the film nodding in agreement to Langdon’s sudden, remarkable realisations.
As the villain Foster’s few appearances—he’s peppered throughout usually appearing in video clips, is further proof that Hollywood doesn’t know what to do with this talented actor.
More fun is Irrfan Khan as the calm, cool and collected head of a mysterious group that manages risks for high profile clients. He’s deadly, duplicitous and James Bond villain suave.
The obvious joke here is that “Inferno” is clueless. But it’s not, it’s overstuffed with clues, just not thrills.