In the follow up to 2006’s Da Vinci Code; Tom Hanks is back as Robert Langdon in this religiously themed mystery-thriller. Based upon the best-selling novel of the same name by Dan Brown, Angels & Demons is a prequel turned sequel to the Da Vinci Code unravelling a conspiracy involving the church’s oldest enemy – the illuminati.
The movie opens with a murder at the CERN large hadron collider in Geneva and the stealing of antimatter. Meanwhile in the Vatican the Cardinals have finished mourning the death of the previous Pope and are preparing to elect the new one. Unfortunatley for them the four prime candidates have gone missing with the Illuminati threatening to kill each one before using the antimatter to destroy Rome and the catholic church. To prevent this, the Vatican recruits Langdon (Hanks) who happens to be an expert on Illuminati to find the trail and put a stop the conspiracy.
Angels and Demons is a time-reliant suspense thriller with the action taking place in just one evening with the plot unfolding as Langdon is hot on the trail. The four cardinals who are missing are to be executed by the elements – fire, water, earth and air with each to happen at the top of the hour. This provides the movie with some sense of urgency but also provides a lot of running around the city streets of Rome connecting the dots but never quite in time. The timeframe does make some of the action seem a little ludicrous though – all in five hours really?
The plot itself though has a much more Hollywood friendly vibe when compared with the Da Vinci Code. It is also much more accessible to the general audience. The action certainly isn’t a problem for Angels and Demons but characterisation may be. The plot takes up the whole film overpowering any character development which sadly leaves all of the characters a bit thin as such everyone comes across a quite bland. Danish actor Nikolaj Lie Kaas as the illuminati assassin has a lack of screen time but he is brings a sleek persona with delivery of smooth lines and evil demeanour making him stand out above the rest.
As the plot unfolds Langdon begins to connect the dots and follow the illuminati trail trying to prevent the assassin from executing the missing cardinals. This middle section of the film is both beautiful and engrossing with seamless changes between on-location filming and detailed set pieces making you feel as though you are constantly within the boundaries of Rome.
The last act does however lose some of its oomph! A tale of multiple endings puts an abrupt stop the momentum of the film in order to tie everything together and conclude the story and unfortunately that is a predictable conclusion.
The worldwide success and controversy of the Da Vinci Code put great expectations on that film which fast forwarding a few years there isn’t as much hype and the expectation is much lower. Director Ron Howard returns to the chair successfully adapting this novel to the big screen. Angels and Demons works much better a light entertainment and in that it produces a slightly above average blockbuster that appeals to a wider audience. Howard has learned from his last outing as director of a Dan Brown novel and has produced a film that is overall much better than the Da Vinci Code.