5/15/09

Angels and Demons

Masterful filmmaking! Ron Howard ("A Beautiful Mind") can make big, confident films, beautifully paced and capably directed. His portrayal of Vatican City and the Cardinal College feels authentic and it is obvious that he instructed the scriptwriter to avoid trashing the Catholic Church this time (see "The Da Vinci Code"). In fact, this movie is loaded with interesting bits of history about the Church that were satisfying to a trivia buff like me, without making a point of debunking either the religion or the institution.

Even though we skip around Europe and the United States during the establishing shots, we are treated to an in-depth view of Rome, the Vatican, and major churches located around the city...and I mean IN-DEPTH. We scamper through more tunnels, grottos, crypts, catacombs and other subterranean spots than you can count. (But the Vatican Archives are something to behold! I wonder if they are really that impressive.)

Although this didn't seem to be either a prequel or a sequel to author Dan Brown's "Da Vinci Code" (he wrote it as a prequel), we still have Tom Hanks ("Charlie Wilson's War") as historian Robert Langdon, called in to assist when a terrorist threat is delivered to the Vatican upon the death of the Pope. A canister of anti-matter has disappeared which has the potential to disintegrate the Vatican and much of the surrounding city. The plot nicely includes a time element which adds to the suspense, and physical violence which adds to our investment in the outcome. And because it is Dan Brown, the Illuminati somehow must be involved.

Among the many Italian actors, there are some familiar non-Italian faces:
  • Stellan Skarsgă╗rd ("Momma Mia!") is well cast as a skeptical law-enforcement officer
  • Ewan McGregor ("Miss Potter") is the functionary who must serve as an interim Pope until the College of Cardinals elects a new one
  • Ayelet Zurer ("Vantage Point") is the lovely particle physicist who stumbles into the plot
  • Nikolaj Lie Kaas ("Kandidaten") is an appealing Danish actor who plays an assassin
  • Armin Mueller-Stahl ("Eastern Promises") plays one of the senior Cardinals.

This is a whiz-bang action movie, with lots of violence, car chases, gun shots, knifings and various types of torture. I was never bored!