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Angels & Demons (A Movie Review)

Updated: Apr 3, 2023

Angels & Demons

Angels & Demons


Starring Tom Hanks, Ayelet Zurer, Ewan McGregor, Stellan Skarsgard, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Pierfrancesco Favino, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Thure Lindhardt, David Pasquesi, Cosimo Fusco, Victor Alfieri, Franklin Amobi, Curt Lowens, Bob Yerkes and Marco Fiorini.

Screenplay David Koepp and Akiva Goldsman.

Directed by Ron Howard.

Distributed by Columbia Pictures.  138 minutes.  Rated PG-13.

The movie version of Dan Brown’s best-selling novel The DaVinci Code was met with critical brickbats and popular success when it was released a couple of years ago.  The film wasn’t as bad as the critics claimed – nor was it quite as good as the masses said.  However, it was a solid and thought-provoking thriller.

Star Tom Hanks and director Ron Howard are back on board for this sequel – well the film is considered a sequel, Brown’s novel which the film is based on actually predated DaVinci – and Angels & Demons shares both the good and bad qualities of its predecessor.

Angels & Demons certainly is trying to intrigue – mixing action, religious imagery and lore, shocking violence, gorgeous scenery, gorgeous scientists, famous landmarks, constant plot twists and a brilliant-but-snarky symbologist.  (Has anyone ever encountered a symbologist outside of one of these movies?)  It is just religious enough to both fascinate and piss off Catholics.

However, the religious trappings and convoluted puzzles are in some ways just disguises for a somewhat standard conspiracy thriller.  Move the storyline from the Vatican to Washington DC and you would not be all that far removed from The Pelican Brief.

Hanks returns as Prof. Robert Langdon (amazingly, this is the first sequel ever for either Hanks or director Howard), a Harvard linguistics professor who is sort of like a more intellectual (and less daring) Indiana Jones.

Despite the fact that he is on bad terms with the church after his discoveries in DaVinci, Langdon is invited to the Vatican soon after the death of the Pope.  Apparently an anti-matter experiment has been stolen by the Illuminati – an ancient group of scientists who were betrayed by the church.  They have kidnapped the four top candidates to replace the Pope and plan to kill one an hour, every hour – in highly symbolic ways and places.  Then, after that, they will blow up the Vatican.

Langdon gets into a race with the clock to save the priests and keep the holy land from exploding.  With the help of the late Pope’s assistant (Ewan McGregor), a drop-dead-gorgeous scientist who created the anti-matter (Ayelet Zurer), a sullen head of the Swiss guard (Stellan Skarsgard) and the Vatican police, Langdon follows clues across Rome, always seeming to get there just a moment too late.

The storyline doesn’t always make sense, but it moves quickly enough that it isn’t always noticeable.  Angels & Demons is mostly a smart, quick-moving thriller.  Far from perfect, but it passes the time well enough.

And if the final plot twist sort of undermines all of the theological detective work which was used to try to solve the crimes – well, these stories have not become best-sellers for their narrative coherency.

Ken Sharp

Copyright ©2009 All rights reserved. Posted: June 7, 2009.


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