By: Kevin Jordan

The seventh circle of huh?

I am a big fan of books like Inferno – action/adventure treasure hunts featuring loads of historical references.  James Rollins, Steve Berry, and, of course, Dan Brown are just three of the authors known for these books.  For those of you who missed The Da Vinci Code craze, Inferno is the fourth book in Brown’s Robert Langdon series (The Da Vinci Code is the second in the series) and it has all the elements of the previous installments.  There’s plenty of action and chasing, there are people who aren’t who they seem, there’s symbologist Langdon (Tom Hanks) who must follow a series of clues hidden in religious and historical art to discover the location of something that could end the world, and there’s a girl on Langdon’s hip for much of the adventure.  It’s exactly what everyone wants from Dan Brown.  And, if you don’t scratch the surface of the plot, it’s a very entertaining movie.

(Since I think this movie is worth a viewing – well, almost worth a viewing – you should probably stop reading at this point or skip to the last paragraph because I’m going to scratch the surface.  In other words, SPOILER ALERT for the rest of the review.)

The premise of the film is that a crazy, billionaire, geneticist named Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster) believes the human race is in danger of extinction because of overpopulation so he’s going to release a custom-designed virus to kill half of the human race.  Yes, it sounds contradictory, but when he explains it, you’re still confused.  I think he’s trying to say that overpopulation will render the entire planet uninhabitable (and in less than 100 years, no less), so everyone will die, but all he can talk about are previous plagues and a clock measuring the existence of humans (we’re currently at 11:59, he says).  Plus, how does he know the virus won’t just kill everyone rather than the conveniently round number of half?  As a bonus, during a lecture he points out that population growth went from 4 billion in the 1970’s to almost 8 billion in just 40 years, so his plan is…to set humans back to disco?  He wants to kill 4 billion people just to buy the human race 40 years?  I’m not sure you’ve fully thought this one out, Berty.

I love treasure hunts.

Unfortunately, that’s the easy part of the story.  As the film progresses, the plot turns into a tangle of confusion as the curtains are pulled back on various groups, individuals, motives, and events.  The film begins with Langdon waking up in a hospital in Florence with a slight case of amnesia.  Dr. Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones) is explaining his situation to him when an Italian Carabinieri (national police) officer starts shooting at them.  That’s right, we’re getting right to the action in this film.  After Robert and Sienna escape, Langdon discovers a cylinder in his pocket containing a special flashlight that projects Botticelli’s depiction of Dante’s map of hell from Dante’s Inferno – aka, the first clue.  Thus begins the hunt where the prize is the virus.  Oh, and the virus is in a special water-soluble bag that will burst at midnight (it’s submerged in water) because every treasure hunt needs a timer and James Bond-ian doomsday device.

I know this means something, I just can’t remember what.

Also chasing after the virus are a team from the World Health Organization (WHO), a guy who wants to sell the virus to the highest bidder, a security group hired by Bertrand to protect the flashlight, and Bertrand’s girlfriend.  The connections between the various groups change as people die and hidden motivations come to light, but by the end it becomes everyone trying to stop the girlfriend from releasing the virus.  At this point, you have all the information needed to form a plot itch you can’t help but scratch.

Question 1: If Bertrand wants to release the virus, why not just release it when it’s ready?  Why the elaborate setup?

Answer: Maybe Bertrand is a big James Bond fan and likes elaborate doomsday devices.  Yeah, let’s go with that.

Question 2: Why would Bertrand leave clues leading to where he hid the virus if it doesn’t require human interaction to be released or for anyone to find it?  Why create the flashlight at all?

Answer: …

Question 3: Bertrand tells his girlfriend that if anything happens to him, he’s made sure that the flashlight will get to her.  Same question as 2.

Answer: Oh no.

Question 4: Bertrand refuses to tell her where he hid the virus (she asks), so why would the flashlight need to get to her if he doesn’t want her to find the virus?

Answer: He secretly hates her?

You see what I’m getting at?  There is no logical reason for Bertrand to have created the flashlight in the first place or the elaborate treasure hunt.  And, let’s assume for the moment that the virus did need human interaction (which defeats the purpose of hiding it at all) – it wouldn’t make sense to create an elaborate treasure hunt to make it difficult for her to find and release the virus.  I’ve spent the last 24 hours trying to conceive of any logical reason, no matter how flimsy, to justify Bertrand creating the flashlight and I can’t do it.  And now my head hurts.

There’s always a tomb.

(Side note: This is the level of plot hole that ruined Signs for me, though I didn’t notice the hole in Signs during the film; my brother brought it up later.)

Like I said, if you don’t look beneath the surface – or first circle, if you will *wink, wink* – the movie is a perfectly fine action flick.  Try not to listen too closely to some of the explanations thrown out there for certain actions.  Do listen closely to Langdon’s historical lectures.  Enjoy another fine Tom Hanks performance.  Smile at Felicity Jones proving she can handle an action role because Star Wars: Rogue One is right around the corner.  Mostly, enjoy the treasure hunt because who doesn’t love a decent treasure hunt, even if it’s existence defies logic?

Rating: Ask for four dollars back and go buy the book.  It has to make more sense than the movie.

The Accountant

By: Kevin Jordan

Two is the only number that matters.

On the Movie Fixers podcast, we have started a list of unforgivable sins, i.e. things that should never happen in movies.  One of those things is not double-tapping an enemy.  If you’ve seen a horror movie at any time in your life, you know what I’m talking about – the hero takes out the bad guy, but doesn’t hit/shoot/crush him again to ensure he is dead.  Inevitably, that bad guy “comes back from the dead” to wreak more havoc.  This does not happen in The Accountant.  Ben Affleck (playing the title character), double-taps, and sometimes even triple-taps every bad guy in his wake.  The best part is that my friend and I weren’t the only ones in the theater to cheer for this.  I heard at least two other people literally say “double-tap” and I’m I could feel them fist bump from several seats away.  It was glorious.

(SPOILERS coming, but they will be mild and few.  You can count them if you like.)

But that’s not the only reason I liked The Accountant.  It’s a pretty good action flick that makes the most boring profession on the planet (sorry, Dad) interesting.  Affleck plays Chris Wolff, an autistic accountant who specializes in finding money.  You read that right – autistic – and this isn’t solely to give Chris a quirk/superpower.  It’s used to great effect to develop his character, comes into play with regards to at least one reveal, and makes you realize they are paralleling Leon in Leon: The Professional.  Most of Chris’ clients are drug lords or weapons dealers or other uncouth characters, but he decides to take on a seemingly straight-laced job working for a robotics company helmed by Lamar Black (John Lithgow).  One of their employees, Dana (Anna Kendrick), discovered some missing money during her accounting and Lamar brings Chris in to find it.  After a night of going through the books, Chris has confirmed that money is indeed missing, but is shut down by the company before he can figure out where it went.  And if anyone is going to be bothered by an unfinished money puzzle, it’s an autistic accountant.

The boring part.

The movie kicks into action gear as the people who know about the missing money start getting gunned down by Brax (Jon Bernthal) and some other hired mercenaries.  I don’t need to tell you what happens for the rest of the movie because it should be fairly obvious.  Action, action, and more action, completed with the missing pieces to the money puzzle.  We also get treated with how an autistic accountant is also an insanely dangerous assassin and it’s very believable.  I know – I was surprised as well.

As much fun as all of the action and mystery was, the movie has a secondary plot involving US Treasury agents Ray King (J.K. Simmons) and Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) trying to identify and track down the accountant (it’s more fun to call him that than Chris, which is why they refer to him like that so often in the movie).  Unfortunately, this plotline is as pointless as the cops in Fargo and No Country for Old Men – the cops never really get close to catching their quarry.  To be fair, in all these cases they are used to further develop the main characters or villains, but they end up never really mattering to the plot.  They are basically us (the audience), but getting paid better.  Simmons owns every scene he is in (because of course he does, the man kills it in insurance commercials), so the scenes are enjoyable.  The problem is they bring the movie to a standstill and never advance the plot.  I think the tension of the movie could have been ratcheted up had the agents actually gotten into it once or twice with the accountant.  It could have been worse though, as Terminator: Genisys so aptly proved.

The not-boring part.

Before I go, I want to leave you with an observation and lack thereof.  There’s a clever little reveal at the very end of the flick that I didn’t pick up on.  My friend was surprised that I missed it and my reason was that because the conflict was over and the movie had been resolved, I had stopped thinking about the movie.  It’s not a great reason, but there it is.  However, he was still a little incredulous so I pointed out a clever little bit of filmmaking that he missed – early on when Chris first goes to the robotics company’s building, he is standing in front of a picture of a human hand touching fingers with a robotic hand.  Chris is placed in front of the robot hand and Lamar is placed in front of the human hand.  See?  Clever.  My point is that this movie definitely had some thought put into it and that’s why I think it was very good.  That and the double-taps.

Rating: Ask for one dollar back for the Treasury agent’s scenes.  They shouldn’t have been the most boring thing in a movie about an accountant.