I’ve got a major itch when it comes to films that explore spiritual and religious matters, and the way Dan Brown can mix such mystery, history and drama is like a masterful wizard creating a potion. The movie, however, is as interesting as watching someone line up colors on a rubix cube. The thing is this- I’m quite amazed at someone working a rubix cube, especially when the turns happen swiftly and the colors never fail to stack. To many film-goers, my fellow readers, they’ll undoubtably feel barraged by the relentless pace and the overly-genius clue-finding of symbologist Robert Langdon. His surprisingly uncharacteristic and non-agnostic parting lines to the last living seed of Christ (played by Audrey Tautau) was “Godspeed”… and boy!… if that wasn’t a clue at how the successor of The DeVinci Code would play out, I don’t know what is.
Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) has returned to Harvard (they have an awesome swimming pool by-the-way) and is met by a Vatican representative explaining they have reason to believe that a secret brotherhood, The Illuminati, has returned and is seeking vengence on the Holy Church. Four cardinals, papal favorites (known as the “preferitti”), have been kidnapped by someone working for the Illuminati. The threat is given- one priest killed on the hour (8, 9, 10, and 11) and then Rome will be “purified by light” with stolen anti-matter (yes, let’s amp up our security of nuclear research centers shall we?). Langdon and physicist, Dr. Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer) traipse quite hurriedly across Rome, clue-by-clue, to save the lives of the abducted priests and the numerous leaders and followers of the Catholic Church whom have traveled to the Vatican for Sede Vacante (time from the death of the pope to the election of the new pope by the College of Cardinals). No fear – for Robert Langdon’s skills are something of a “Godsend” and he’s on the case!
Symbologist Robert Langdon is no Saint Paul, he’s a firm believer of what is “proven” and this is a mutually interesting character for both religious believers and non-believers. The more eloquent of the scientist agnostics, the character of Langdon (as well as that of the represented Catholic clergy) maintain a respectful boundary between religion and science. Galileo would be proud. The large set pieces and locations provide an exuberant amount of eye candy. Not scenery that initially impresses and dwindles, but ones that make you thirst for more; like a cherry flavored Jolly Rancher. Ewan McGregor (Trainspotting, Star Wars I-III), Stellan Skarsgard (Ronin, The Glass House), and Armin Mueller-Stahl (Music Box, Shine) are equally great, although I’d actually give an extra-special nod to Armin whose playing of Cardinal Strauss was exemplary.
Where the movie took a nose-dive, was in the condensed editing and the dialogue stylings. It felt like you were in a museum filled with beautiful paintings… but instead of leisurely viewing each masterpiece piece-by-piece, you are whisked, tugged and pulled along by a hyperactive 10 year old, leaving you inept of its full meaning. Lucky for me, I can take speed (if I know what direction I’m going)… and I’m quite used to “not understanding full meanings.”
What was annoying was the dialogue (mainly of Langdon, Vetra and Camerlengo McKenna). While momentarily impressed when Langdon asked his escort for help with italian, Langdon delivers countless details, myths/ histories to people that already know them… then he might saying something fancy in Latin, and will then make it a point to re-explain (most likely for the audiences benefit. damn our feeble minds!).
The most laughable of these “failures to deliver” comes when the Camerlengo (McGregor) breaks into a closed enclave of cardinals and gives the mightiest of pep-rally speeches to a congregation of superiors, virtually all of them 3 decades his senior. There is also a scene involving him, and a helicopter that kills me – watch for it.
I also found it strange that particle physicist, Vittoria Vetra, off the top of her pretty little head, knew the signs and symptoms of a particular poison that may or may not have killed the Pope – like she was a medical doctor! Hmm… well… I’ve a couple of moles that need a looking at when she gets a chance.
Well many may say that this a great improvement to The DeVinci Code, I miss the self-flagellating albino, Silas (Paul Bettany), and sexy French Agent, Sophie (Audrey Tautau)- Beauty and the beast (I’ll let you decide for yourself who I’m talking about). But that was separate movie and my love for Audrey Tautau is just plain biased and we will have none of that here at The Joyce Review. With Hans Zimmer’s music, along with Joshua Bell violin solos, fast-paced problem-solving in picturesque Rome, Angels and Demons succeeds, but doesn’t triumph.