‘Into the Inferno’ film review
By Greg Waldock, Staff Writer
Werner Herzog’s latest wilderness adventure is, in classic Herzog style, a touchingly human examination of fear and passion wrapped in a façade of majestic drone shots of eruptions and lava. From the island of Vanuatu to Mount Erebus in Antarctica, Into the Inferno examines the way volcanoes affect cultures and individuals around the world. It’s another win for New German Cinema and documentary lovers everywhere. The documentary, a collaboration between Werner Herzog and volcanologist Clive Oppenheimer, is also the iconic German director’s first work with Netflix, and hopefully not the last.
The film has all the horror, wonder, and dry wit we’ve come to expect from Herzog and his crew. They hunt down people and groups who are not known to the word at large, yet are brimming with eccentric passion. Oppenheimer is a standout here, and his interactions with Herzog are golden. Two excitable paleontologists in Ethiopia are also particularly watchable, and it’s easy to tell that Werner loves finding these characters as much as we love watching them.
However, the largest and most glaring downside may be the eclectic cast. It loses focus about halfway through the film and sometimes gets stuck at a single site, with little apparent tangible relationship to volcanoes. For example, a bone dig with a camera-loving—and admittedly entertaining—anthropologist becomes the focus for a solid 20 minutes, despite being nowhere near a crater. It doesn’t fit the narrative flow of the film as well as the scenes before it, and it feels somewhat like the director is indulging himself a bit. The documentary picks right back up after the lull, but viewer beware: It can drag on.
Ultimately though, the film is a huge success. Phenomenal camera work with drones, interesting subjects, and a very real sense of danger from the volcanoes themselves—aided by a booming, deeply religious choral soundtrack—all held together by Werner Herzog’s smooth German accent creates an absolute treat, and another classic notch in both Herzog’s and Netflix’s belts.