Oh, and the shoes also have shiny little bows on them.
It’s a strange costuming decision all around, and firmly in the absurdist tradition of the heel-hampered heroine, which is to say of Ginger “backwards and in heels” Rogers, and also Claire Dearing in Jurassic World, and Lisa Reisert in Red Eye, and Juliet O’Hara in Psych, and Annie Walker in Covert Affairs, and Claire Underwood in House of Cards, lounging around her Washington home in her sky-high stilettos. But the sole-crushing costuming decision is also narratively strange. It really makes no sense at all that Sienna, who is a former child prodigy and a current Langdon-level genius, would choose, all things considered, to put on those silly shoes. No. Sense. At. All. Inferno is an absurd movie, certainly, its action revolving around sketchy character motivations and Bourne-borrowed action sequences and, ultimately, a boil-in-a-bag version of the plague; the most ridiculous thing in this decidedly non-divine Dante-themed comedy, though, is the shoes.
If the Sienna Shoe Problem were a one-off thing, it would be worthy of little more than a collective eye-roll from the ranks of women who see Inferno (or, for that matter, from any person who’s ever swapped heels for flats after the presentation is over, or slipped a pair of flip-flops into a bag as preparation for the wee hours of the wedding, or come to the realization that Carrie Bradshaw, traipsing around Manhattan in a pair of inches-high Manolos, is both a fantasy and a lie). But, of course, it’s not just Sienna. Women galavanting in heels—running in them, endangered by them, totally hindered by them but trying their best not to admit it—happens again and again in Hollywood productions. There’s Sienna, running and jumping and self-defense-killing in those silly, shiny wedges. There’s Claire, fleeing Indominus rex in her skin-color stilettos. There are Juliet and Lisa and Annie, all trying to make the best of the bad situation that has been inflicted on them by their costumers and by their genders.
And, yes. There is, later in Inferno, the movie’s other Langdon-lady, Elizabeth Sinskey, joining Sienna in running around (this time, upon the cobblestones of Venice and Istanbul) in ridiculous shoes (this time, in full-on pumps).
Perhaps it is related that, of the seven primary producers listed in the credits for Inferno, only one is a woman. Perhaps it is also related that Inferno’s director, Ron Howard, is male. Perhaps it is also related that Inferno’s costume designer is male.
Or perhaps not. Maybe the filmmakers, here, were attempting, with the impractical footwear, to make a subtle commentary on Sienna’s (and Elizabeth’s) characters. There is, after all, the cinematic cliché of the weaponized heel (take, for example, the death of Ms. Suzuki in True Blood, or the murder of Sam in Single White Female, or Catwoman’s reminder, in The Dark Knight Rises, that “stiletto” is lent from the Italian word for “dagger”). And elevated shoes are, to be sure, highly symbolic of the interplay between femininity and feminism, between empowerment and its absence.