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Review: Angels & Demons

entertainment Updated: May 30, 2009 16:21 IST
Rashid Irani
Rashid Irani
Hindustan Times
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Angels & Demons
Cast: Tom Hanks, Ayelet Zurer
Director: Ron Howard
Rating: ** & 1/2

Robert Langdon is at it again. The Harvard academic (Hanks) who cracked The Da Vinci Code back in 2006 is now called upon to unravel a plot to blow up the Vatican. Apparently, the Catholic Church has forgiven him for exposing one of its darkest secrets. It probably also helped that the blockbuster raked in upwards of $750 million at the global box office.

Adapted from the pre-Da Vinci pulp fiction by Dan Brown, Angels & Demons purports to be an exciting adventure thriller. What we get, alas, is just another twisty-turny tale that’s neither thrilling nor suspenseful.

It merely leaves us lamenting the waste of resources and top-line talent.The hokum plot is set in motion following the sudden death of the Pope. Cardinals from around the world gather in Rome to elect a new pontiff.

But a centuries-old covert anti-Church sect has other plans. A hit man has abducted and threatens to execute four prominent candidates in the Papal race.

Worse, a powerful explosive device, hidden somewhere in Vatican City, is set to go off in a couple of hours.

Enter the scholar-saviour. He’s the only person who can save the cardinals, monsignors and the faithful who have thronged Saint Peter’s square from being vapourised to kingdom come.

Rather conveniently, clues are strewn in various churches across Rome. Accompanied by an ineffectual Italian scientist (Israeli actress Zurer, in her first role since Steven Spielberg’s Munich) our man Langdon zips at breakneck speed between medieval monuments, crypts and cathedrals.

Unfortunately, he’s also hell-bent on explaining plot points in minute detail, besides imparting uncalled for information on artists such as Raphael and Bernini.

At times, it seems the viewer is on a package tour of Rome’s finest landmarks. Incidentally, the production was denied access to several key locations including the Sistine Chapel. They were re-created in a studio in Hollywood. Throughout, the production design is ultra-slick.

The unflustered duo is both helped and hindered in their mission at hand by various officials including the head of Papal security (Stellan Skarsgaard) and the late pontiff’s humble disciple (Ewan McGregor). Meanwhile, in an unintentionally funny sequence, Langdon nearly destroys the priceless collection of the Vatican archives.

The fractious science versus religion debate is given short shrift. As for the preposterous climax, it’s likely to be laughed off the screen. Besides having his hair shorn, Tom Hanks is as dull as he was in the earlier Dan Brown venture.
All things considered, this film, directed by the Oscar-winning Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind) amounts to endurable entertainment.