Angels & Demons
Ron Howard :: USA :: 2009 :: 2h20
Professor of Symbology Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) is lifted out of a Harvard swimming pool by a Vatican official to be shown the symbol of an ancient church scientific spin-off sect the Illuminati. Four cardinals have been kidnapped and they need the professor’s help in following the Illuminati trail, to save their lives and a looming catastrophe. Within the hour, Professor Langdon is crossing the Atlantic to Vatican City.
After all the religious controversy of the first instalment, The DaVinci Code, this second appearance of Prof Langdon is considerably less critique prone, if you forgive the film’s ticking body count. The Vatican is, however, the main subject matter of the film and whether or not they are portrayed positively is up for debate. What does remain untarnished, is the central Catholic doctrine. There is a curious science-faith opposition worked into the story which will mean more to an American living through the raging creationist-evolution debate than to a contemporary Vatican clergyman. But other than that, the mystery is a political one, not theological.
For most of the film, Langdon is explaining Church history as they move from one breathtaking location to another. Not only do we get to snoop around Vatican City (and now I really wonder what the archives look like!), but we are also granted a full tour of the splendours of the eternal city! It does somewhat surprise me that director Ron Howard managed to get at least some filming done at the Vatican, considering that he had not made himself very popular with the authorities three years ago, famously not being allowed to film in the Parisian St Sulpice. It is not clear how many of the locations were artificially re-created, but the splendour of the Vatican comes out magnificently!
The verdict on the film will no doubt vary, as on the surface the plot is Hollywood simple as you would expect from such a production. It is funny to realise that under the bonnet it is considerably worse, as the unfolding events become nothing short of being completely implausible. And through it all, Langdon cracks one mystery after another as crisps from a bag, without loosing a single one, taking you smoothly forwards through to that unlikeliest of conclusions. But it all does not really matter. There is some great photography of the Rome and the Vatican and it has Ewan McGregor, who makes a great Pope’s assistant, the Camerlengo. Or is that not enough?