Pros: Luscious cinematography, great script, pacing, performances. The Twist.
Cons: Plot holes, implausable aspects, eh, ignore them and enjoy.
Angels and Demons (2009) Directed by Ron Howard from the book by Dan Brown.
"... but science and religion are not enemies! There are simply some things that science is just too young to understand. So the church pleads: "stop", "slow down", "think", "wait"... and for this - they call us backward. But who is more ignorant: the man who cannot define lightning, or the man who does not respect its natural awesome power?" -Camerlengo Patrick McKenna
"The Illuminati did not become violent until the 17th Century. Their name means 'The Enlightened Ones'. They were physicists, mathematicians, astronomers. In the 1500's they started meeting in secret, because they were concerned about the church's inaccurate teachings. They were dedicated to scientific truth. And the Vatican didn't like that. So the church began to, how did you say it? Oh, hunt them down and kill them." - Robert Langdon
Angels and Demons, Heaven and Hell, Science and the Church...counterbalancing antagonists, each somewhat defined by its opposite. It is a remarkably symmetrical system, and this movie manages to maintain that symmetry, coming down on neither the side of Faith, nor of Reason.
Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) the Symbologist, who got up to such hijinx with Opus Dei in The DaVinci Code, is back. And he has just a few hours to correctly solve a centuries old mystery, or hundreds of thousands will die as the Vatican receives a smiting such as has not been seen since the days of Sodom and Gomorrah.
The Pope is dead (a progressive pope) and the College of Cardinals is in Conclave. However, the four most likely candidates, the preferati, have been kidnapped, and will be publicly executed at 8pm, 9pm, 10pm, and 11pm. And this is just the prelude to the big show; the Vatican will be vaporized in an antimatter explosion. CERN was robbed, and the containment unit will fail when the batteries holding the antimatter in suspension run down.
Fortunately, the villains who are responsible are the Illuminati, and that means there is a chance. You see, the Illuminati are a secret society that have been around since the Templars went underground, and in all that time, they have survived by being secretive, and hiding clues to pass on their history without getting caught. Now, it is their nature. It's like Batman going up against the Riddler. He can't help leaving clues. He has to!
So, if Langdon can read the clues correctly, it will lead him to the places the Cardinals will be killed, and eventually to the location of the hidden bomb. Can he stop them from being murdered? Can he save the Vatican and the Church?
Okay, we got Illuminati and antimatter. This movie is going to be a bit of a stretch. If you want total believability, go watch History Channel. But once you move past the plot holes, like why is Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer) side kicking for the symbologist, what you have is a taunt little trip-hammer paced thriller.
Part of the appeal of course is the world it is set in, the square mile palace of art and history that is the Vatican, the otherworldly realm of pomp, ceremony, and heavy, inescapable symbolism.
And there is more; politics. The eternal territorial wee-wee war between the Vatican Police lead by Inspector Olivetti (Pierfrancesco Favino) and the Swiss Guard, personal protectors of the Holy Father, captained by the obstructionist Commander Richter (Stellan Skarsgård).
Then there is the Church itself. With the Holy Father dead, his Camerlengo Patrick McKenna (Ewan McGregor) is the man who signs the checks. His counterpart is the Leader of the Conclave, the Cardinal in charge of electing the next Pope, Cardinal Strauss (Armin Mueller-Stahl). With his sinister mien and Germanic origins, it is obvious he is supposed to represent current Pope Palpatine I.
McKenna is in favor of following the voice of sanity and the police, and evacuating Vatican City, but Cardinal Strauss will not let Conclave be broken. They have faith, and will remain. (Attention all non Italian Monsignors; pack your bags, you could be going to the Show.)
The Agnostic Langdon, the Progressive McKenna and the Scientific Vetra form a Triumvirate opposed on many levels by the conservative forces of Cardinal Strauss, Commander Richter, and Father Simeon (Cosimo Fusco). Which will win out, Faith in the form of the Church, or Reason, in the form of the terrorist Illuminati?
As always, Dan Brown has crafted a tale that seems plausible, but with plot holes the size of semis. The thing is those plot-holes go whizzing by almost unnoticed in the trip hammer speed of the pacing, as the adrenaline flows, and the lovely baroque clocks all count down towards midnight.
A much more enjoyable movie than Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons is a look inside the symbolic war between faith and reason. And while nothing is ultimately answered in that war, I was entertained. And THAT is what it is really all about.
This is entered into Texas Swedes Texas Sweden Write off. Stellan Skarsgård is of course, Swedish. I thought maybe Ron Howard was from Texas, but nope, Oklahoma.