Angels and Demons (PG-13) ★★★☆

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Trouble in Vatican City

Angels and Demons is a brilliantly filmed mystery thrill ride of a puzzle with Ron Howard at the directing helm. The backdrop is the architectural, historical and spiritual city of Rome. Tom Hanksrecreates his role as Harvard symbologist Professor, Robert Langdon from the novel and film; The DaVinci Code. Angels and Demons is based on the popular book of the same name by author Dan Brown. The film brings print to the big screen in a huge Hollywood extravagant way. The awe-inspiring elements of this film are the incredible story, acting and fast paced action. The only downfall is that the screenwriters had trouble deciding upon an ending and therefore there are several.

According to Ron Howard, the film is meant to be another chapter in the life of Robert Langdon although the novel was written before The DaVinci Code. Howard contends that because movie goers have witnessed Langdon’s tenacity in the first film, they will not be disappointed by his resolve in Angels.

The film’s premise is a mixture of science and religion. Langdon is summoned by CERN, a Swiss science research compound to decipher a cryptic symbol that was smeared across the chest of a murdered physicist. The symbol is one used by an ancient organization called the Illuminati, a four hundred year-old secret society. The murder is also linked to the theft of a canister of a very powerful substance called antimatter. Antimatter has an extremely powerful explosion capability and is now in the hands of the murderer.

Langdon teams up with an Italian scientist who is also a beauty named Vittoria Vetra played byAyelet Zurer to try and save the Vatican from destruction as the deadly antimatter is traced to Rome. The Pope has died and the Vatican begins the process to elect a new Pope. We also learn that the four Cardinals most likely to succeed the Pope have been kidnapped. Yes, the plot thickens as time is of the essence now that the Cardinals are being murdered at the rate of one each hour. And… to top it all off; upon the death of all four Cardinals, the antimatter canister will be set into motion causing a catastrophic explosion.  The time and locations can only be discovered if the path of the Illuminati is decoded. Langdon is a busy bee deciphering the clues alongside his beautiful, smart cohort scientist.

The young and handsome Camerlengo (Ewan McGregor) is a key player in the story as he was raised by the late Pope and is heartbroken upon the news of his death. (The Camerlengo has very specific duties within the Vatican. He certifies the death of the Pope and destroys the Pope’s ring. He becomes the acting head of state of Vatican City until a new Pope is elected.) Angels also teaches us about the protocols of Vatican City in the event of a Pope’s death and the actions that are taken during a serious deadly threat.

I have visited Rome several times and was intrigued by the city’s beauty and history. I particularly fell in love with the amazing ‘angel’ statues that can be found in virtually every church in Rome. Gianlorenzo Bernini is the sculpture that is featured in Angels and his angel sculptures are truly breath-taking.

I enjoyed revisiting the locations the film used as settings; the Vatican, the Pantheon, Piazza del Popolo, Castel St. Angelo and Piazza Navona as well as the amazing artworks, architectures and sculptures. Rome is truly an art lovers paradise. And don’t get me started on the food and wine or this review will become pages long. Each reviewer does bring his or her life experiences to a film and due to my fondness of Rome, I suppose you could say that the film brought back special memories of Italy but nonetheless, the script, action and characters are all in line in this one. Tom Hanks as Professor Langdon worked well in Angels and the chemistry between the scientist, Ayelet Zurer) worked much better than in “The DaVinci Code” pairing of Langdon and Agent Sophie Neveu.

The films multiple endings are dramatic and old-style Hollywood drama, but would we really expect anything less?  The film is violent and we witness red hot poker brandings and several murders, so be prepared. All in all I found the film entertaining and similar in theme to the National Treasure films in which a mystery is to be solved using clues.

Sarah Adamson © 2009