ANGELS & DEMONS
When Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) discovers evidence of the resurgence of an ancient secret brotherhood known as the Illuminati - the most powerful underground organization in history - he also faces a deadly threat to the existence of the secret organization's most despised enemy: the Catholic Church. When Langdon learns that the clock is ticking on an unstoppable Illuminati time bomb, he flies to Rome, where he joins forces with beautiful Italian scientist, Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer). In a wild adventure, Langdon and Vetra follow a 400-year-old trail of ancient symbols that mark the Vatican's only hope for survival.
Review by Louise Keller:
Statues above the unfortunate and boring Da Vinci Code, this film sequel or prose prequel from best selling author Dan Brown, pits science and faith against each other with a conciliatory outcome. There's plenty more going for it this time, although the film often glowers with its own self-importance. That aside, Angels and Demons romps home energetically, looking fabulous and with a fit and likeable Tom Hanks at the helm.
The film begins with the death of the pontiff in Rome, while at the same time in a scientific facility in Geneva, the anti-matter known as The God Particle is being created. Conspiracies within the church and threats from an ancient secret brotherhood called The Illuminati to kill four prominent cardinals in line for election as the new Pope, prompt the Vatican to call Tom Hanks' famed symbologist Robert Langdon for his informed assistance. As the rest of the cardinals gather in conclave, the race against the clock begins for Langdon to decipher the clues in order to save the kidnapped cardinals, who are to be killed on the hour. Ayelet Zurer as Vittoria Vetra, the physicist with smarts and charm replaces Audrey Tautou from Da Vinci, and makes a fine impact. Ewan McGregor injects plenty of complexity as Camerlengo Patrick McKenna, Stellan Skarsgård has fine screen presence as Commander Richter and Armin Mueller-Stahl is a welcome addition as Cardinal Strauss, who believes in gentleness.
Ron Howard directs with conviction and Hans Zimmer's score is as fitting as the splendid Rome locations. There are dead ends that are not dead ends, red herrings and thrilling sequences that get our blood racing. There's even a touch of humour, when Vittoria irreverently tears an invaluable page from Galileo's writings in the Vatican archive when genteel viewing is no longer possible. Visual effects are magically imbued to showcase Rome and make us believe we are in the most hallowed of places. This reinforces our fascination about the inner workings of the Catholic Church, and without doubt, the Church will be outraged at this Hollywood view of its sanctum. As entertainment, the angels and demons will beckon.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It is a testament to Ron Howard's cinematic skills that he can make this ludicrous story work as a thoroughly engaging thriller. Well, the final sequences defy credibility on several levels, but nevertheless, the film stands up and delivers, much thanks to Hans Zimmer, who provides all the gravitas required to muscle the story. The ticking clock/bomb threat genre also gets extra ballast from the setting at the epicentre of the Catholic Church. The drama of the Papacy, the antiquities and secret vaults, the old feuds, the theatricality of it all ... Dan Brown knows what ingredients to use for a recipe that goes down as easily as a devilish ice cream drenched in glistening, dark chocolate.
Brown positions the thriller against a backdrop of the Church v Science; it's a valid and eternal conflict, but don't expect this workout to be more than a bit of weightlifting at the ecclesiastical gym.
Most of Tom Hanks' work is in trying not to be irritating as Langdon the know-all, which he does with concerned intensity, as he chases the clues to find the demon bomb before it turns everyone in the Vatican into angels. Ayelet Zurer is well cast as Italian scientist Vittoria Vetra - not so beautiful as to stretch our credulity, but with plenty of feminine appeal. Armin Mueller Stahl exudes authority in a key support role, and Stellan Skarsgaard is a standout as the head of the Vatican security apparatus. Also outstanding is Nikolaj Lei Kaas as the mysterious assassin. Ewan McGregor has a difficult role, and he manages it, but it's by necessity a muted performance - until the end.
Production design and the digital work are all excellent, and Howard's direction keeps the pace ticking in time with the clock, while still telling the story in a clean, uncluttered fashion, despite the fact that it could have got rather obscure at times. In a count-down thriller the details are not always crucial for the maintenance of tension, but they sure help to deliver a richer experience. It's great escapism and doesn't warrant being taken too seriously - Zimmer's de profundis cures notwithstanding.
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ANGELS & DEMONS (M)
CAST: Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor, Stellan Skarsgard, Ayelet Zurer, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Carmen Argenziano, Ursula Brooks, Perfransesco Favino, Nikolaj Lie Kaas
PRODUCER: John Calley, Brian Grazer
DIRECTOR: Ron Howard
SCRIPT: David Koepp, Akiva Goldsman (novel by Dan Brown)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Salvatore Totino
EDITOR: Daniel P. Hanle, Mike Hill
MUSIC: Hans Zimmer
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Allan Cameron
RUNNING TIME: 140 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 14, 2009