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Angels and Demons Movie Review

- 7 June 2009, 09:06

Symbols and Threats and Bombs, Oh My
by Betty Jo Tucker

Angels & Demons follows symbologist Robert Langdon as he helps the Vatican solve a deadly threat to the Catholic Church. In this second film adaptation of a Dan Brown religious thriller, action overwhelms plot while we watch our hero — played again by Tom Hanks — race from one incredible crisis to another. Although parts of this movie come across as totally unbelievable, it contains enough excitement and stunning cinematography to give viewers an entertaining couple of hours at the multiplex.

Electing a new Pope is always serious business. But when four of the main contenders are kidnapped and a bomb threat arises, it’s a matter of grave concern. And when the Illuminati, an anti-religious group thought no longer in existence, becomes suspect, it’s time to call in the world’s most renowned symbologist. However, Professor Langdon can’t help being surprised at this summons, for he and the Church were not on friendly terms during his deciphering of The Da Vinci Code. Still, he agrees and rushes to the Vatican. There he joins forces with physicist Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer), one of the researchers working on an anti-matter bomb which has been stolen. And, of course, that’s the ultra-powerful bomb in question here.

Racing against time, Langdon and Vetra face considerable obstacles in their mission to save the kidnapped cardinals and prevent the destruction of the Vatican and “half of Rome.” Among the characters aiding and/or hindering their efforts are: Camerlengo Patrick McKenna (Ewan McGregor); Commander Richter (Stellan Skarsgard, head of the Swiss Guard; Inspector Olivetti (Pierfrancesco Favino); Cardinal Strauss (Armin Mueller-Stahl); and a mysterious hit man (Nikolaj Lie Kass).

As with most mystery thrillers, telling more about the plot and the suspects would ruin the surprises, so I’ll remain mum concerning those elements of the film – except to say suspension of disbelief is a must while watching Angels & Demons.

Fortunately, Hanks brings confidence and an air of dignity (a new hairdo helps!) to his role, even while rushing around and saying some pretty ridiculous things, including comments about statues pointing to clues. Zurer looks continually frightened, but her character should be very afraid, so that works for her. McGregor seems a bit young to play a priest so high up in the Church hierarchy, but he’s quite convincing most of the time. Skarsgard makes us wonder if he’s a good guy or a bad guy — and that helps evoke suspense in several scenes. The other key characters also deliver fine performances.

Angels & Demons offers more than a mystery to be solved. It’s also filled with fascinating tidbits about such famous figures from the past as Galileo and Bernini as well as provocative statements about science vs. religion.  But no doubt about it, the cinematography steals the show in Angels & Demons. Salvatore Totino’s intriguing photography of beautiful statues, ornate churches, crimson-garbed cardinals and of the film’s thrilling climax is worth the price of admission.

(Released by Columbia Pictures and rated “PG-13” for sequences of violence, disturbing images and thematic material.)

For more information about this film, please go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.


Betty Jo Tucker is a member of the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and the San Diego Film Critics Society (SDFCS). She teaches an online class, “The Reel Deal: Writing about Movies” for the LSS School of Writing and has published three movie-related books including CONFESSIONS OF A MOVIE ADDICT, an amusing memoir about her life at the movies. Betty Jo serves as the editor/lead film critic for ReelTalk Movie Reviews and hosts a weekly radio show, “Movie Addict Headquarters,” for BlogTalkRadio. She also writes monthly film commentary for the Colorado Senior Beacon. For more information, please go to www.BettyJoTucker.com


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