Angels & Demons
Review by Cassam Looch
WHEN the highly volatile ‘anti-matter’ is stolen and the four leading candidates to become the next Pope are kidnapped all evidence points to the elusive Illuminati, a secretive organisation hell-bent on the destruction of the Catholic Church.
Professor Robert Langdon, the world’s pre-eminent symbolist is called in at the behest of Vatican security to decipher the clues and defuse the ticking bomb with the aid of Vittoria, a physicist working on the anti-matter project.
The Illuminati have threatened to detonate the device (also known as the god particle) and publicly execute the cardinals they have captured in revenge for years of persecution by the religious hierarchy.
It’s the traditions and methods of these men that heighten the danger as they refuse to evacuate whilst they elect a new leader, so young Patrick McKenna (Ewan McGregor) must assist in his capacity as Camerlengo, the temporary head of the papal office.
Although the book the film is based on is a prequel to The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons sets itself up as sequel of sorts. Only vague references are made to the previous instalment and so no prior knowledge is needed to ‘enjoy’ this movie.
The formula is very simple. Professor Langdon finds a clue. He stumbles upon on answer to the inexplicable riddle. He races off with an assortment of cannon fodder rag-tag locals (and eye-candy) to get to the destination just in time/just too late. Then he finds a clue… and off we go again on a merry adventure.
Tom Hank’s Professor is more of doer in this film, which immediately makes it a more competent outing than The Da Vinci Code. Sure, there is a lot of mumbling in the shadows and vaults of ancient building but this time there is a very real threat and the race to save lives feels more urgent.
This is helped by the plot-device of having regular targets until the ‘big bang’ at midnight, which is only a few hours away from when the action starts. The locations also help with the Vatican and its long corridors serving as a perfect counterpoint to the frenetic chases and general chaos of Rome.
The Question of Faith versus Religion is an interesting one, but author Dan Brown’s muddled thinking is only exposed further by his attempts to be profound. The film is punctuated with awkward grandstanding speeches on the subject, all of which fall flat despite the best efforts of the actors.
Ewan McGregor’s Action Man vicar is an implausible creation who tips this film from likeable hokum to mediocre mulch. The twists towards the end are delivered in such a camp manner that you end up not wanting to analyse how believable they are but instead find yourself shaking a clenched fist at the screen. “Damn you Ron Howard…”
In the final analysis, this is an interesting concept undone by an overlong runtime, tediously repetitive format and McGregor’s wayward Irish accent.
Running time: 138mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: September 14, 2009