Movie Review: Inferno


Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) and Dr. Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones) go through the corridors in Ron Howard’s Inferno (Source: IMDb)

Dan Brown is never shy of facing controversy. Not only has his fourth book—The Da Vinci Code—been criticized for its portrayal of Christianity, but also he has been accused of plagiarism by Lewis Perdue. As a result, the 2006 film adaptation got banned in several countries including Egypt and India. The sequel, Angels and Demons, is no different.

I always love a good mystery. That’s what I got in both of these movies. Director Ron Howard has directed two of the most ambitious movies of his entire career. Inferno, the latest Dan Brown adventure, is certainly no exception.

Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) is back. This time, he wakes up in a hospital in Florence, Italy, with amnesia. He keeps seeing visions of hell, and later teams up with Dr. Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones). They learn about billionaire Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster), his lecture on Earth’s overpopulation, and how his virus—based on Dante’s Inferno—will serve as his resolution. They begin to race against time through Europe to end the catastrophe while a security company—led by Harry Sims (Irrfan Khan, Life of Pi)—is after them.

Sadly, Inferno is the weakest of Robert Langdon adventures, but it’s nowhere near as bad as people make it out to be. It has several bumps in the road. While Hans Zimmer’s score keeps the suspense going, it does lack the powerful choir from the previous two films. It had a rough start with the choppy editing. Once the mystery comes into play, I became invested in what is going on. It’s hard to deny Tom Hanks’ presence as Langdon; he plays out as if he knows his studies. Like his performance in Sully, he’s the smartest man in the room.

Filmed on location in Florence, Venice and Istanbul, there are times in which Inferno feels like a travelogue than an actual film. Its love of history connecting with the mystery fascinates me. There is something in David Koepp’s screenplay that rubs me the wrong way (spoiling it would be truly unnecessary). Thanks to Ron Howard’s direction and the camerawork by Salvatore Totino, Inferno still has the thrills, twists and turns that made the two predecessors so enjoyable.


Movie Review: Deepwater Horizon


Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg) and his crew are in a life-and-death situation in Deepwater Horizon, Peter Berg’s retelling of the BP oil spill (Source: The Guardian)

The BP oil spill of April 20, 2010, devastated the Gulf of Mexico (about 40 miles off the coast of Louisiana). With 126 people working on the rig, 11 of them lost their lives. This natural disaster inspired Jimmy Fallon to write a protest song called “Balls in Your Mouth”. Given the oil spill left tar balls bobbing in the gulf. For four years, he sang his song with guests including Eddie Vedder, Florence Welch, Brad Paisley, and Russell Crowe for BP to get the message. It goes a little something like this:

The oil spill by BP
Left tar balls all over the sea
Don’t go swimming down in the South
Unless you want tar balls in your mouth

Six years after the oil spill, director Peter Berg and star Mark Wahlberg recreate the massive disaster with Deepwater Horizon. The results are electrifying!

Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg) is a chief electronic technician for Transocean. He has a loving wife (Kate Hudson) and daughter (Stella Allen). He gives his last goodbyes before heading to the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, and promises to get her a fossil dinosaur tooth for his daughter. His crew—led by manager Jimmy Harrell, or as the crew calls him by Mister Jimmy (Kurt Russell)—begin to face problems almost immediately.

The rig is 43 days behind schedule. The crew begin to do a negative pressure test on the drill pipe. Hell begins to break loose in the rig when the pipe begins to explode, causing a huge mess. The crew do whatever they can to survive the most devastating oil disaster in U.S. history.

What Berg and Co. did with 2013’s Lone Survivor (which I liked), they did it again with Deepwater Horizon. They capture a real-life event with such bravery and edge-of-your-seat, nail-biting tension, kudos to the fast-paced handheld camerawork. For this movie, the film crew created an actual oil rig off the Louisiana coast. It’s deemed as the largest practical set piece ever built for a movie. That’s what makes this movie all the more suspenseful, thanks to its use of practical effects. That faraway image of the rig in flames is gorgeous beyond compare.

Berg adds the human element in this portrayal without giving too much development of the crew members. Wahlberg—who is also one of the producers—is at the top of his game here as the everyday handyman, who has to think fast in a situation such as the oil spill. Other than Kate Hudson being Kate Hudson, everyone delivers good performances. Notably Russell as Mister Jimmy and John Malkovich as the BP representative Donald Vidrine. Deepwater Horizon is a worthy tribute to those who served on the oil rig, and sacrificed everything they can to make it home safely. I look forward to what Peter Berg and Co. do with Patriots’ Day. I’m positive the results are going to be nothing short of extraordinary.

I’m actually choking up while writing this review, which is the first.