Inferno

Director: Ron Howard (2016) BBFC cert: 12A

Hellfire and brimstone are as nothing to the purgatory of watching Tom Hanks stumble about Italy as the bible bothering super sleuth, Robert Langdon.

Returning for his third outing in the role, it’s an apocalyptic adventure every bit as preposterous as the previous ones, The Da Vinci Code (2006) and Angels And Demons (2009). Possibly even more so.

A mad scientist considers the human race to be a virus and so has plans to release a disease which will wipe out half the planet’s population.

Langdon begins the film in a state of amnesia like a geriatric Jason Bourne. After that the film plays out like a James Bond adventure from the late Roger Moore era.

Ineffectual henchmen wander sumptuous locations while a powerful covert organisation patrols the globe in a supertanker. Sadly missing the daft innuendo, knowing camp and reassuring winks to the audience, you’ll be praying for the halcyon days when Moore’s eyebrows would go off half cocked.

It’s a divinely ridiculous mashup of pedestrian shoot-outs and discussion of the renaissance poet Dante, whose death mask is missing from a museum. Langdon is the number one suspect and together with his doctor he must evade the authorities and save the world.

Dr. Sienna Brooks is played by young Felicity Jones and thankfully her character has a grand-daughterly relationship with Langdon. Fortunately our hero’s love interest is more age appropriate and is played with grace by glamourous Danish actress, Sidse Babett Knudsen.

There are visions of hell on earth, conspiracies abound, priceless art is destroyed and Langdon has time for a nice cup of coffee. Director Ron Howard gives the film as much energy as possible and astonishingly everyone involved keeps a straight face.

Don’t worry if you miss this apocalypse, no doubt Brown will be back with another one soon.

@ChrisHunneysett

 

 

Good People

Director: Henrik Ruben Genz (2015)

Temptation brings danger to a struggling young couple in this silly and dingy thriller.

Americans Tom and Anna are the good people making a fresh start in London after suffering a domestic tragedy. They’re neither especially bright nor particularly likeable.

Though we’re told they’ve been together for a long time, there’s an unfortunate lack of chemistry between James Franco and Kate Hudson in the lead roles.

Having inherited Tom’s grandmother’s large house, they’ve accumulated large debts trying to renovate it.

When they discover £220,000 of much needed cash in the flat of dead neighbour, they can’t resist helping themselves.

Danish director Gnez has his cinematographer Jorgen Johansson dress the city in the gloom typical of Scandinavian noir, adding an extra layer of dreariness to proceedings.

The moral question of taking the money is quickly glossed over as the plot descends into bloody, predictable, tension-free violence. It occasionally strays unintentionally close to farce.

Tom Wilkinson plays a grieving cop chasing Sam Spruell’s villain who is trying to recover his stolen drugs money.

As Omar Sy wanders through as an urbane Frenchman trying to muscle in on the London heroin trade, the always engaging Anna Friel is wasted in a role requiring her to cradle a baby, squeal at a washing machine and perch precariously up a ladder.

As threats are issued, hands broken and furniture is destroyed, nail guns and snooker cues are put to use which probably affect their warranty.

Samba

Director: Olivier Nakache & Eric Toledano (2015)

This inter-racial romance among immigrants in Paris breaks hearts and cultural barriers with an abundance of humanity and humour.

Working-class Senegalese trainee chef Samba Cisse (Omar Sy) has lived illegally for ten years in Paris. He is arrested at work and placed in a detainment centre next to the airport.

Highly-strung case-worker Alice (Charlotte Gainsberg) helps him with his court case. They are both passionate and give good anger. She’s warned by the younger, sexier, more cynical Manu (Izia Higelin) not to become involved with her clients.

Released and required to leave France but under no pressure to do so, Samba returns to work in a succession of unskilled, casual, cash in hand jobs in security, construction, window cleaning and so on. They all posses an element of danger.

Samba is accompanied by his effervescent Brazilian friend Wilson (Tahar Rahim) and they make a likeable double-act, helping and protecting one another from criminals and the police.

As the tentative relationship between Samba and Alice develops, they have a beneficial effect on the other’s personalities – but Samba’s all too human needs and weaknesses return to threaten his potential happiness and fragile stability.

The ambitious opening scene is a lengthy shot beginning in a lively, wealthy wedding reception. We follow a fabulous wedding cake as it’s transported off the dance floor through the hotel corridors and into the depths of the kitchen where the camera stops and lingers on the men washing dishes.

It is no coincidence these are the first black faces we see and in one wordless, dynamic shot, the film’s occupations with identity, status and employment are established. The shot has echoes of both the opening of The Great Beauty (2014) and the Copacabana scene form Goodfellas (1990).

There is also a virtuoso and vertiginous shot looking down an office block which was sufficiently well constructed to make me dizzy.

Stephane Fontaine’s cinematography avoids making Paris a chocolate box of delight but is presented as a busy, complex, working city. In this film of contrasts, light and colour are used to differentiate between calm and chaos, wealth and poverty.

The music is sparse but used to terrific effect. We hear a confusion of languages which helps the exploration of identity; how it is defined for us but also how we can choose to define ourselves.

An intelligent script takes great delight in pointing out the absurdities and failings of the bureaucratic immigration system, not least in making the observation people are seeking asylum from places the French middle-class go on holiday.

Alice and Samba are hard-working, charming and flawed. In a cafe they’re filmed in shallow focus to block out the world around them, encouraging us to concentrate on their beautiful faces.

They enjoy each other’s company and we enjoy being with them. They’ll always have Paris.