InfernoRon Howard's Inferno features left wing loon as super villain

By Jim Bray
January 26, 2017

I never saw this one coming, and I have a feeling that Tom Hanks, Ron Howard, author Dan Brown and screenwriter David Koepp didn't either: Inferno, the third movie in the "Da Vinci" code series, features a megalomaniacal bad guy who's such a left wing whacko that non-whacko left wingers should take note of where their movement has gone in real life.

It's funny, because that's exactly the opposite of what these guys say on the new Blu-ray release's supplements, where they portray tech billionaire Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster) as a really, really smart guy who just seems to have overstepped the rules of decency by devising his plot to kill half of the human race so the remaining half can rebuild.

The issue at the heart of the story is overpopulation. Zobrist thinks that humanity will be extinct in 100 years, with our offspring fighting over diminishing resources. So, rather than use his super genius abilities to develop new ways of growing food - or of getting us the heck off of planet Earth to colonize the stars (thereby also possibly reducing the human population on Earth without offing the innocent) - he decides to play God by creating a super virus that infects those within range, innocent people who'll then infect others they meet. Zobrist figures that half the human population will be dead after that, leaving the rest of humanity to create a new Renaissance.

Ernst Stavro Blofeld would have been proud, as would Hugo Drax.

The filmmakers try to make Zobrist sympathetic. We get to hear his rants over and over again as he makes his case to the gullible and/or clueless folks in his audience, but he comes off like a Jim Jones-type of zealot whose followers will do anything for him and his/their agenda.

Wouldn't it have been ironic if all the lefties succumbed to the virus and the knuckle-dragging right wingers survived? Alas, the virus is targeted like a person throwing mud at the wall to see what sticks, so it some of Zobrist's Zealots (they should have had T Shirts saying that!) would have died as well, which they'd find okay as long as it advances the agenda.

It's hard not to enjoy Inferno, the latest of the Dan Brown books to be given the Ron Howard/Tom Hanks treatment. It's a very good film, kind of an "Indiana Jones" meets "Outbreak" type of thing that raises the ante from Angels and Demons' scenario, where they were merely trying to destroy the Vatican.

And it's a ripping yarn, shot beautifully, and its two hours flies by. Howard is a very good director and this film is merely the latest testament to that fact. Now if only he and his little liberal friends would put their obvious skills into some logical thinking or at least a little bit less self (or human) loathing…

Inferno starts with Robert Langdon (Hanks) waking up in a hospital, with amnesia. Then, before he has a chance to think about much of anything, a fake cop shows up apparently to gun him down so, aided by Doctor Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), who was there when he woke up, they escape the hospital and thus begins a chase around Italy and elsewhere to track down the virus and prevent its release, in the process saving some four billion people who did nothing wrong other than to be born (at least they got that far, eh, liberals?).

There's a terrific international cast of red herrings - and don't ever be sure you've figured out who's a good guy (or gal) and who's a bad guy (or gal), because the white and black hats get exchanged more than a few times in Inferno. And that's great! I don't remember much of The Da Vinci Code (nor have I read any of the books), but Angels and Demons was much the same in that there are some wonderful plot twists that keep you guessing. And it all happens while Langdon is trying to figure out who he is and what the heck is going on.

It's also a nifty blend of the historical (in this case, Dante and his Divine Comedy) with sci-fi (the plague).

Sony has released Inferno on regular Blu-ray and in 4K. I asked for the 4K version to review but they sent me a three pack that has all of the films in it, which is a nice package if you don't have the other two films already and don't care about 4K.

The 4K picture must be darn spectacular because the 1080p Blu-ray is top notch in its own right. I watched it down in my home theatre with its 1080p projector, 106 inch screen (and 5.1 audio) and it's a dynamite presentation. Colours are rich and deep and the detail - wait till you see the close-ups and the textures in background objects in this thing! - are fantastic. Blacks are inky deep, which helps the image look nearly 3D. The aspect ratio, by the way, is 1.85:1, which nearly fills the 16x9 wide TV screen; the other two films were shot at 2.40:1.

I also auditioned Inferno up converted to 4K via Oppo Digital's new UDP-203 player and it looked really great that way as well.

The Blu-ray's audio is in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and it's as good as the video presentation. The soundtrack will immerse you well, using all of the available channels, and the overall sound quality is very dynamic and clean. The 4K version features Dolby Atmos, which "dumbs itself down" to regular 5.1 for folks who haven't upgraded their audio to Atmos - which is most of us.

If the 4K version is like other 4K discs I've reviewed there'll be no extras, but the Blu-ray has a few (and it's included in the 4K disc package, so you don't really miss anything with the 4K package). The supplementary stuff isn't as interesting as the stuff offered on Angels and Demons, but it's better than nothing - and you do get to watch the top four contributors rationalizing just how misunderstood the poor bad guy was.

Extras include some extended and deleted scenes and a code to download a digital version of the film. There's also a short "Visions of Hell" in which cast and crew members and author Brown talk about the Dante themes that permeate the story. "Inferno Around the World" looks at the international cast, while "A Look at Langdon" focuses on the character throughout the film trilogy. "This Is Sienna Brooks," not surprisingly, looks at the head chick while "The Billionaire Villain: Bertrand Zobrist" gives the makers a chance to tell us how much they admire the whacko antagonist.

Possibly the most interesting feature, "Ron Howard, a Director's Journal" is a look at how the former Opie Taylor, Winthrop Paroo and Richie Cunningham uses social media, shooting locations, etc. It's actually more interesting than it sounds.

There are also some trailers. 

I expected Angels and Demons to be a religion-bashing diatribe and was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't - and even though the megalomaniac in Inferno is treated kind of with kid gloves, his actions speak very, very loudly in a way I'm not sure the filmmakers really intended.

Bottom line is that Ron Howard's Inferno is a very enjoyable film, a techno thriller that can stand among the best of such films. And it's head and shoulders better than Moonraker!

Copyright 2017 Jim Bray

Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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