Angels & Demons
Angels & Demons, set up as a sequel to the controversial film The DaVinci Code (even though the books are written in the reverse order), is sure to spark a storm of discussion among religious sects and fans of author Dan Brown.
Following the death of the Pope, Professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) is summoned to Vatican City, which is a surprise considering his last run in with the clergy. However, the religious leaders have received an ominous threat from the Illuminati, a secret society whose members were once sought out and killed by the ancient church. Resurfacing from seeming oblivion, the group has kidnapped the four top papal prospects and is threatening to kill one every hour before detonating a bomb in the Holy City.
As Cardinal Strauss (Armin Mueller-Stahl) prepares to move ahead with the conclave, Inspector Olivetti (Pierfrancesco Favino) of the Roman police hopes Langdon can decipher the code pointing to the locations where the premeditated murders will occur and the explosive device is hidden. With the help of scientist Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer) and Commander Richter (Stellan Skarsgård) of the Swiss Guard, the symbolist begins a feverish hunt for clues.
For a film promoting the usefulness of science, deduction and modern technology, the script still contains an unreasonable amount of gaping plot lines. While the cardinals all surrender their electronic gadgets before entering the conclave, everyone outside of the church seems to be equally hobbled when it comes to using their cell phones to call for backup. Efforts to locate the bomb also seem primitive in an era when surveillance and decoding equipment is readily available, even to the common consumer. The result is several frantic but fruitless attempts to stop the executions.
The movie doesn’t show a single smooch or embrace, but it is flush with violent and often graphic scenes of death and mutilation. In addition to a host of police officers who either have their necks slit or are shot, there are scenes of human branding, decomposing corpses, and blood splattered bodies along with the disturbing portrayal of victims being burned alive.
Digging up the age-old battle between science and religion, the production also resorts to the overused, stereotypical depictions of corruption in the church. Yet there are also moments when the composure and compassion of the cardinals are sublimely shown, humbling even the self-righteous symbol interrupter with their kindness and good sense.
Though Angels & Demons comes across as more of a pure thriller than The DaVinci Code, this murder mystery set in the heart of the Catholic hierarchy may leave some viewers feeling uncomfortable with the religious portrayals. Meanwhile others will likely find the gruesome deaths and rampant misuse of technology too disturbing or distracting to be worth a visit to this Roman destination.