Saturday, May 23, 2009

Angels and Demons: review

There are a lot of movies out there that need not be the next greatest film of all time. There are many reasons to go to the movies. Since I began writing this blog, I've added another reason I go to the movies, so I can think about them and write about them more when I get home (it extends the procrastination of a single movie viewing by hours). The opening of "summer blockbusters" so early in May in an effort to jump start the season and not to compete directly with each other has given us more movies to see, for little reason that they're new and famous for one reason or another. I've happily kept up with the huge openings thus far, Star Trek, Wolverine and now Angels and Demons. I've also taken in 17 Again and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. I'm willing to bet none of these movies will achieve any awards for acting (though Zachary Quinto was really good), and likely few for special effects (though Star Trek could make the cut, it's still early). The real reason (in my opinion) to see all these movies is for the shear entertainment they provide. In that respect, Angels and Demons delivers big.

I've read the books of Dan Brown and appreciate the details he uses and the nerdy semi-historical facts he hinges his thrillers on, so I went into this movie thinking I knew what I was getting. It's now been about 5 years since I read the book, which is incredibly complicated and I'd forgotten most of the important twists and turns, and thoroughly enjoyed the movie. So as not to ruin your viewing pleasure, I'll just explain the basics. A pope has died, and thus all the cardinals must meet in the Vatican to elect a new pope. This has provided the chance for an anti-church (fictionalized) group call "the Illuminati" to wage war by kidnapping the 4 cardinals most likely to win the election, and also to steal a fictionalized substance called "anti matter" to blow up the Vatican. (now I don't mean that either the Illuminati or antimatter are fictional, but artistic license has made them both into something they are not for the purpose of the story, like Opus Dei in The Da Vinci Code). Our hero, Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks, in a much better performance than DaVinci Code) has been called in to interpret symbols sent to the Vatican with the warning of impending doom. There's a lot of chasing around Rome and Vatican City which looks amazing and really complicated, too many whirling shots for me. The supporting cast is terrific, each giving off the "I could be the bad guy" vibe all the way through, Ewan McGregor (as the pope's assistant, the Camerlengo and interim in charge), Stellan Skarsgard (head of the Swiss guard who protect his Holiness) and Armin Mueller-Stahl (the cardinal Strauss in charge of conclave). Also, I must say the female lead, Ayelet Zurer (a huge deal in Israel and really making a splash on US audiences now) was terrific, neither cloying nor saccharine like Audrey Tautou's character in Da Vinci. Overall, it was a great thriller, violent, but constantly changing heroes. 4 of 5 stars.

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