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Thursday, February 21 , 2019, 11:34 pm | Fair 44º


Cinema in Focus: ‘Inferno’

3 Stars — Thought Provoking

Following in the footsteps of his remarkably popular books, The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, author Dan Brown takes us on another adrenalin-fueled journey that pits man against God in determining the fate of the world with Inferno.

This time his main character, Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), finds himself waking up from amnesia in an Italian hospital trying to figure out what happened and realizing he is implicated in a plot to destroy half the world’s population.

Langdon’s talent is his extensive research into the symbolism and history of Catholicism, and the plots and intrigues of sects and followers throughout the ages. Inferno is a reference to Dante’s Inferno, which becomes a code to be unraveled — or in this case, the prediction of things to come.

It helps that Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), the doctor helping him recover in the hospital, also knows the stories of Dante Alighieri and becomes a worthy sidekick to Langdon in uncovering a plot to destroy mankind.

The question, though, is who would want to destroy mankind, let alone have the means to do it?

The answer is based in the modern phenomena of men of immense wealth wanting to change the world for good by investing in life-changing events.

In real life, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation built on the wealth of Microsoft is trying to eradicate certain worldwide diseases such as malaria in one generation. Elon Musk is using his fortune from PayPal to fund SpaceX to build rockets to explore outer space and Tesla Motors to build one of the most popular electric cars in the world.

In the film, the wealthy billionaire Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster) has been preaching to the world that overpopulation will ultimately destroy humankind. He is convinced history has shown that when mass extermination events such as plagues wiped out portions of the earth’s population, mankind was able to recover and thrive. He credits the emergence of the Renaissance to such a phenomenon.

What transpires is another nail-biting trip through Europe and ultimately Istanbul to stop Zobrist’s plot. We won’t give away the twists and turns of the journey, but it is as much a travelogue through the icons of the early Christian church as it is a forensic discourse on the hidden meanings imbedded in Dante’s Inferno.

The question at the core of the tale is whether righteousness or self-righteousness should be the determiner of history. Is our future based on the historical spiritual and moral truths that are determined by something greater than ourselves to be just and fair for all? Or, do individuals, groups, nations or scientists get to make that determination using some internal sense of self-righteousness as a guide?

This is a core question that has plagued humankind for millennia. Certainly the Bible, representing more than 3,500 years of human history, has repeatedly shown that when humankind takes matters into its own hands, life does not go well for us.

The evolutionary and revealed wisdom of the ages would suggest that man’s understanding of the universe is woefully limited, and to suggest that where we are in our thinking today is the most advanced possible is laughable.

Langdon’s search for prophetic insight through Dante’s Inferno reveals the depravity of humankind’s self-serving behavior. While Inferno dramatizes a conclusion that presumes no one individual gets to determine our collective fate, the reality is that much of the world lives its daily life convinced that we do.

This is a good reminder that there is a wisdom in the world that has already revealed to us that life affirmed in the love of God and our neighbor is far more powerful than our own feeble attempts to control the future.


» The struggle between righteousness and self-righteousness is not only global but internal. How do you deal with the struggle within your own heart and will?

» The symbolism of Dante’s journey through hell as a clue to the future of humanity is a fascinating premise. Do you believe the future has been revealed in literature from the past? Do you include the Bible in your answer or make an exception for it?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is the retired pastor of Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara and lead superintendent of Free Methodist Church in Southern California. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com, or follow them on Twitter: @CinemaInFocus. The opinions expressed are their own.

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