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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Angels & Demons

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Angels and Demons

Someone is swiping matter and anti-matter in Europe.

From the CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) collider in Geneva Switzerland:  The anti-matter, sealed in a vacuum tube has a timer attached, with a battery keeping it stable and self-contained.  When unsealed, entering air particles will cause a devastatingly destructive reaction.  A single gram contains the energy of a 20 kiloton atomic bomb—the size of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

From Vatican City:  The “matter” which has been stolen is in the form of four preferiti.   No, that’s not some fancy Italian pastry, but favorite Men of God, cardinals from which the next Pope will be chosen.   Since the current Pope has just expired, the College of Cardinals has been assembled to choose another, so the four missing forerunners leave quite a gaping hole in the proceedings.  It’s not easy being teacher’s pet, as Jesus, Moses, and scores of martyrs can attest.

A note taking responsibility for the crimes points to a revenge-based Illuminati plot going back 400 years, when the Church literally branded and murdered four scientific-minded Illuminati for heretical thoughts, tossing their dead bodies in the street as a warning to the faithful to remain so - or else.  Four centuries later, someone is plotting payback.

Time to call a Harvard symbologist.

Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) is summoned to the Vatican to make sense of it all, and with a visit to the archives, accompanied by scientist Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer) a CERN scientist who understands anti-matter – someone has to – the two embark on a criss-cross trek spanning Roman churches and fountains in an effort to save both the preferiti and the anti-matter.  All are on a timed schedule of death and destruction that will take place from 8:00 p.m. until midnight, culminating in a mushroom cloud over St. Peter’s Square.

Other players in the unfolding drama include the deceased Pope’s “son”, Ulster orphan Patrick McKenna, renamed Carlo Ventresca, now a Camerlengo (interim cleric in charge between Popes), Richter (Stellan Skarsgard) Commander of the Swiss Guard, literal bodyguards of the Pope) and Cardinal Strauss (Armand Mueller-Stahl) in charge of the Papal election.  Red herrings are as plentiful as the cardinals’ ruby headgear.

Langdon and Vetra roam around Rome at breakneck speed, visiting tombs, fountains, catacombs and piazzas trying to save the kidnapped cardinals.  Obscure clues lead Langdon unerringly to the source of the action with no second guessing.

Skeptical officials with power become obstacles to be overcome.  The perpetrator reveals himself more and more as hours pass, bringing events to a few different conclusions before hitting upon the “real” scenario that answers all questions neatly and illuminatingly (pun intended).

Best-selling author Dan Brown’s titular novel predates The DaVinci Code, but the events here take place after that adventure.  Langdon’s haircut alone should offer a clue.

Tom Hanks is the voice of reason and certainty once again.  Ewan McGregor seems to be at home in any skin he inhabits.  Vittoria Vetra’s purpose seems to be to ask the right questions and supply pertinent anti-matter facts.  Armand Mueller-Stahl allows his ominous demeanor to speak for him through an icy blue gaze.  Stellan Skarsgard is a cynical Langdon foil, preferring solid detective strategies to academic musings.

Director Ron Howard (The DaVinci Code, A Beautiful Mind) walks a tricky tightrope between religion and science, trying not to comment too much on either.   He’s learned from his first Brown effort, picking up the pace considerably and keeping the action and suspense flowing. Screenwriters Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind) and David Koepp (Panic Room) offer dialogue that sounds like textbook passages, informing the audience that they need to be informed and sacrificing spontaneity for clarity and complete sentences.

Historians may dispute the alleged facts put forth by Brown; nevertheless, Angels and Demons makes for an entertaining, fast-paced journey through ancient territory, both archival and physical.  Angels come to us from on high, demons from the depths below.  Where we fall between the two is strictly for us to decide.