Cast: Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor, Ayelet Stellan Skarsgard, Pierfrancesco, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Armin Mueller-Stahl; Director: Ron Howard; Producers: John Calley, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard; Screenwriters: David Koepp, Akiva Goldsman; Music: Hans Zimmer; Editor: Daniel P. Hanley, Mike Hill; Genre: Crime/ Drama/ Mystery; Cinematography: Salvatore Totino; Distributor: Columbia Pictures; Location: California, USA; Running Time: 138 min;
Technical Assessment: 3.5
Moral Assessment: 3
CINEMA Rating: For mature viewers 18 and above
The pope has just died and the Cardinals are gathered to elect a successor when four cardinals—the favorites as the next pope—are kidnapped. A note from the Illuminati, an ancient secret society that is perhaps taking revenge on the Church for past persecutions, threatens to kill the four cardinals, one every hour from 8 to 11 PM. It also says a bomb made of anti-matter, hidden in the bowels of the Vatican, will explode when it runs out of battery at midnight Only Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) can decipher the Illuminati riddle, so the Vatican through an emissary summons him to solve the mystery and save the Vatican estate from total annihilation. Langdon gains a partner in the race against time, the Italian scientist Vittoria Vetro (Ayelet Zurer) who had inadvertently created the anti-matter in a CERN laboratory in Geneva. The two win the cooperation of the Camerlengo Fr. Patrick McKenna (Ewan McGregor), and then the hunt begins, despite the lukewarm welcome by probable papal successor Cardinal Strauss (Armin Mueller-Stahl) and chief of Vatican security Commander Richter (Stellan Skarsgard).
Having been denied the privilege to film in the Vatican, director Ron Howard resorted to creating their own sets, and they are great repros of the original, especially the Sistine Chapel. Those who have seen the real thing or who have a trained eye would know that these locales are just Hollywood sets, but the ordinary moviegoer would feel lucky to pay the price of admission (160 pesos) to go on a virtual pilgrimage to the Holy See, tour the Vatican archives, penetrate the Conclave during a papal election, and set foot on the ground where St. Peter is buried. Of course, Angels and Demons is a historical novel, not history, so you don’t turn to the movie to find the truth; nonetheless, it offers a reasonable facsimile of the trappings of Catholicism. While the plot has enough fire in it, the intensity varies from actor to actor. Tom Hanks is more disappointing than dispassionate here, and the Israeli actress Ayelet Zurer is like lukewarm coffee, tasty but unappetizing. Ewan McGregor as the angel-faced Camerlengo steals the thunder from Hanks, but has to try harder in order not to be outdone by the Cardinal Strauss of Armin Mueller-Stahl. Credit goes to the writers for the thought-provoking dialogue. The musical score is effective and the cinematography is great, but it doesn’t seem right that the Langdon and Vetro characters too effortlessly read or intuit the clues leading to the anti-matter vial’s hiding place, depriving the story of much needed tension and texture.
Contrary to the allegations of the suspicious, Angels and Demons—according to the review done by L’Osservatore Romano, the official newspaper of the Vatican—is “commercial… harmless entertainment”. CINEMA agrees. Just like the Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons is a plain detective story, a murder thriller which just happens to involve Church men as victims. It is worth watching for the relatively positive image of the Church that it ultimately projects. If you must watch it, prepare not to nitpick about Dan Brown’s historical hooey— instead pay attention to the dialogue, you are certain to pick out lines that may even increase your faith in men of the cloth. And on hindsight, you may even realize that in spite of man’s folly and infidelity, God does make Himself present in the conclave.