Angels and Demons

We return to the exciting world of religious symbology in Angels and Demons, the sequel to The Da Vinci Code. Robert Langdon, played again by Tom Hanks is brought to Rome to investigate the kidnapping of four Cardinals. The Pope has just died and his successor will most likely be chosen from among those four, assuming they survive. So it is important to rescue them. Langdon is brought in because it is apparent that the Illuminati, an ancient order of scientists and scholars, who the Church has brutally suppressed over the years, have returned to take their revenge. They are leaving clues that only someone with Langdon’s knowledge of religious art and iconography can solve. He has five hours to do it. A Cardinal will be killed every hour and at the fifth hour the Vatican will be destroyed by a stolen container of antimatter.

Pretty neat, huh?

There really isn’t much narrative sophistication in Angels and Demons except for a few plot twists at the end. If a movie like this succeeds–and this one does–it’s because of kinetic energy. The plot moves so quickly, you don’t have time to think about how absurd it is. For two hours, Hanks and various members of the Swiss Guard, Vatican Police and Carbonari (we learn a lot about how Vatican City operates in the movie) race around the crowded streets of Rome, trying to get save a Cardinal and pick up the trail to the next murder scene.

It helps that the lead is played by Tom Hanks who is a pleasure to watch in anything. Even though he is given almost nothing to hang this character on, he manages to breath some life into Langdon. It’s not anywhere near fully realized characterization, but Langdon is not a complete cypher like he was in The Da Vinci Code. Ewan McGregor plays an aide to the former Pope, who according to Church law, has Papal authority until a new Pope is elected. He’s young for the job and you feel for him.

I have one quibble, and unfortunately I can’t really talk about it without giving away a plot point. There is a twist at the end which is not adequately foreshadowed. Actually that one sentence may ruin it, so I won’t say anymore.

Angels and Demons is not a great movie. It is in fact a middling thriller, paced well (you hardly notice the near two hours and twenty minutes go by) well shot, and well acted. In short it’s a good way to spend a hot summer afternoon.

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