It is just as well I had not heard Dr Mark Kermode’s reaction to The Inferno before deciding that I could combine a 2D version of the film with the Miss Saigon anniversary after the afternoon showings were cancelled at Wandsworth and where I originally booked and was not being relayed at all to the Cineworld within the 02 arena at the Millennium Dome. I was able to book an aisle seat which was not possible at Wandsworth which used a smaller theatre.
I have noted that despite the advertising of some films in 3D there has been an overall reduction in those available and where in this the film was also available in Imax. The main enjoyment from this films comes from its locations in Florence, Italy and Istanbul, particularly the last scene on the Basilica Cistern. However, the story is pants from start to finish although Tom Hanks does his best. The film is based on the 2013 Dan Brown novel who wrote the successful book which led to the De Vinci Code film which I found interesting, entertaining and plausible. I make no apology for the plot spoilers as national showings of the film are at their end.
I will also avoid the irritating mixture of present action and flashbacks. The film is about a billionaire geneticist with his own international security service who is concerned that the world will not be able to feed itself because of the exponential growth in population and with a reduction in major world wars and major losses of population because of pandemics, starvation, unclear water and other natural disasters which has been a feature of the past couple of hundred years the population will quickly become unmanageable. His solution is to create a plague which will decimate at last half the population through an airborne virus and which will leave hundreds of thousand badly disfigured and disabled and in fact a Dante Inferno hell on earth.
The first point to be made is that if such a virus can be created and this is possible despite the world ban, and it comes into the hands of someone with the worldwide financial power and doing anything for a price security team, Spectre and Smersh immediately come to mind as originators of the possibility, they are unlikely to be found out in time and caught. However, it is likely that various intelligence services are on the lookout but also have knowledge of the whereabouts of the communication HQs from which the various independent security and intelligence organisations operate and which enable democracies with laws prevent assassination, torture and other lawless activities to place contracts to undertake off the books projects.
In the instance of this film the body which gets wind of the plot and set out to prevent activation of the virus is the World Health organisation with its team led by a former love relationship of Tom Hanks, a Harvard professor with the ability to decipher codes and an in depth knowledge of the works of Dante. He wakes up in a hospital in Florence with a vague memory of having a syringe in his neck area which has left a rash and removed his immediate memory of who he is and, why he is in Florence. He is told and believes by the English speaking attractive doctor, aptly named Sienna who knows who he is from having attended one of his lectures as a girl that he is suffering from a bullet wound which narrowly affects his scalp and therefore raises the issue of how come such a limited injury has the effect it is claimed to have. Moreover when it is agreed to contact the US embassy for help a hired female assassin arrives dressed as a local police motors cyclist who starts shooting people and attempts to get through the various doors which are shut as Sienna opts to try and get Hanks out of the hospital to the safety of her apartment and where in the hospital and in the apartment Hanks starts to have hallucinations of the end of world according to the terror the virus is destined to unleash and it is only towards the end of the film that it is disclosed that Sienna is in fact the partner of the billionaire who has committed suicide rather than reveal how the virus is to be activated and when after he has sent the world an ultimatum for change in a video. To add to the plot someone purports to also be a member of the WHO organisation has knowledge and wants to get hold of the virus to sell on the international market.
Because of the possibility of being stopped the billionaire has provided a second option in the form of an elaborate series of clues provided in the death mask and paintings of Dante and his view of Hell which has been depicted in Sandro’s Botticelli’s Map of Hell and which is contained in what appears to be a secured vial, first thought to be the virus container but is in fact a kind of pen projector (Faraday) which reveals a changed version of the map and only Hanks appears able to interpret with the practical assistance of Sienna.
The search leads them from Florence to Venice where Hanks in wanted by the police locally because he and the Museum Director are seen stealing the death mask Tom and Sienna work out has been taken back to Florence, is retrieved and on the base of it is a further clue which leads them to Istanbul. We also learn that after the death of the billionaire the head of his intelligence operation attempts to follow previous instructions and ensure that Hanks get the information and with the help the staged female assassin using blanks is part of the plot get Hanks to help Sienna doctor ensure release of the virus. However, as the action develops the orders are to kill Sienna and capture Hanks. The doctor kills the assassin through making her fall through the priceless decorated ceiling of the Museum as the two attempt to escape crossing the rafters. They also manage to kill the arms dealers when in Venice and at this point the double dealing of Sienna is revealed. Hanks is reunited with his former love at the WHO and they are also assisted by the former head of the Billionaires private security service.
This takes them to Istanbul and the Cistern where a gala evening party is being held with orchestral music among the columns and red floodlit waters which is very specular and beautiful. The virus is in already in a container in the waters which is housed by the authorities in a secured way before Sienna can set off explosion to cause the its release and dies along with some of her local pre-arranged helpers. Hanks and the head of the WHO rue their passed missed opportunity and that the present requirements of their work means they are kept apart, but are they? The world is saved to continue on its path of self-destruction as before but the audience leave the theatre entertained by the spectacle.
However, those with knowledge of the book, appreciate a very different outcome. The virus has already been released into the water with Sienna attempting to stop and destroy fearing that the authorities would retain and that it would fall into the hands of those seeking to convert into weapons. The impact is that about a third of population will become sterile thus having a positive effect on future population. Sienna does not die and is given amnesty because she is a doctor and knows of the work is given a job with the WHO. She and the female head of WHO work together but decide not attempt to reverse the sterilization accept that the billionaire had a point. A message which understandably Hollywood and the USA government would not want to have shown and where I suggest some of the more recent plague outbreaks may not be as natural as might be supposed. I also suspect on terms of rational thinking that other ways to control human behaviour have been decided, including the use of addictive substances as well as digital communications