Starring: Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor, Ayelet Zurer, Stellan Skarsgård, Armin Mueller-Stahl, and Nikolaj Lie Kaas
Director: Ron Howard
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars
Harvard professor Robert Langdon (Hanks) races across Rome and against time to stop agents of the Illuminati from taking revenge on the Catholic Church for ancient wrongs, bringing to a head a secret war that has waged for 400 years. If Langdon fails to properly interpert clues hidden in the architecture and saturary of the Vatican and Rome's most famous sites within the space of one night, four Cardinals will be murdered and the Vatacin will be destroyed in a massive terroist attack.
"Angels & Demons" is a race-against-the-clock thriller (literally in every sense) that uses a heavily ficitonalized version of historical events and organzaitons as its backdrop, and the far-fetched sci-fi concept of an anti-matter bomb as a major plot device. It's well-filmed with an excellent musical score helping to move the action along. Every actor is excellent, with Ewan McGregor (as the only seemingly-openminded clergyman in the entire Vatican) and Stellan Skarsgaard (as the head of the Swiss Guard and a religious fanatic who seems to be obstruct Langdon's investiation at every turn) shining particularly brightly.
This is a thoroughly entertaining film with a cleverly constructed plot that gives viewers enough clues to play along and try to sort out the good guys from the bad guys as they story unfolds, but still keeps enough back so when the truth about the goals and desires of the film's main characters and villains start emerging it all fits together and it feels satisfying.
But only if one accepts that the film is complete and total fiction.
I'm no historian, but even I know that Copernicus died of natural causes and was not murdered by the Church (as is claimed in the movie, as one of several reasons for why the Illuminati has been secretly at war with the Church). I also know that the Illuminati was founded in 1776, by political philosphers with no interest in science, not by Gallileo as is claimed in this story. I'm no scientist but even I know that it is beyond our current scientific know-how to create (and let alone store) the amount of anti-matter featured in the film.
I've never read any of Dan Brown's books, but if this movie is accurate representation of the "facts" they contain, I don't understand what the fuss is. It looks to be trashy fiction that's translated into trashy movies. "Angels & Demons" is a fun romp, but it's nothing more than that."
The same is true of the claim that it's a screed against Catholics and that it promotes anti-Catholic bigotry. Having watched the filn now, I don't see where the American Catholic League is coming from with its boycott calls. They would have been far better off if they had just kept their mouths shut; Columbia Pictures would have had at least one less ticket sale on this opening day.
"Angels & Demons" no more promotes bigotry against Catholics than "Absolaute Power" promoted bigotry against political toadies. In fact, the only thing in this movie that seems to be an accurate portrayal of anything real is the fact that any institution made by man can be subverted and corrupted by man. There are evil Catholics in the film, and there are good Catholics in the film. (The only possible bigotry I see in it, is a bigotry against historical facts. But, since I know this is a work of fiction, that notion is as silly as the call for the film to be boycotted.)
So, should you see "Angels & Demons"? I found it to be a fast-paced, engaging thriller, but I wouldn't recommend you think too hard while watching it; if you do, you'll notice the historical and scientific nonsense that rests at its core. Basicallyl, this is the sort of B-movie trash that I spend most of my time reviewing, but it's features an A-list cast and a huge budget.