Angels & Demons (Sony Pictures, PG-13)

angels1.jpgI wish I could say that this film surprised me, but it really didn’t. If you’ve seen any recent mystery/thriller, or even a handful of Law & Order episodes on television, you’ll probably figure out whodunit within 30 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Angels & Demons has a lot of what many people look for in your standard summer thriller. There’s plenty of intrigue, explosions, chases, double-crossing, murder and mayhem. But whether or not that’s a good thing may depend on how many thrillers you’ve already seen.

Symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) gets an early-morning visit from the Vatican police when four Cardinals in line for the papacy are kidnapped. They are being held along with a device that contains an explosive amount of antimatter, which was stolen from the world’s largest particle physics lab after one of the researchers was killed.

The Illuminati, a centuries-old secret society, has claimed responsibility for the crimes. They let it be known that they plan to execute one Cardinal an hour and then detonate the antimatter, wiping out all of Vatican City and part of Rome. Langdon joins forces with the Vatican Police, Swiss Guard and Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer), another of the lab’s researchers, to trace the clues left behind and find the Cardinals and the explosive before it’s too late.

I wish I could say that this film surprised me, but it really didn’t. If you’ve seen any recent mystery/thriller, or even a handful of Law & Order episodes on television, you’ll probably figure out whodunit within 30 minutes. How is that? Well, as with most of these types of films, it’s obvious the crime was an inside job, so the suspects are people we already know.

Was it Commander Richter (Stellan Skarsgard), the head of the Swiss Guard? One of the many, many Cardinals gathered in Vatican City to vote in a new Pope? Possibly it’s the deceased Pope’s personal priest Patrick McKenna (Ewan McGregor)? Maybe it’s one of Langdon’s trusted police guides, or Vetra? Why can’t filmmakers figure out that if every mystery movie does this, the tactic is no longer…mysterious?

Even with all these possibilities, none of the characters are especially interesting; everyone just sort of springs to action in workaday fashion. There is, however, one exception. The Assassin (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) who actually handles all the dirty work for our inside (wo)man has the makings of a grade-A villain. He’s shadowy, smart and lethal. He rarely speaks, but when he does says things like, “If God doesn’t want vengeance, why am I here?” The assassin seems to have a real motive, something aside from power or money, but the film is so concerned with the chase-the-archaic-symbols dance that we never get anything deeper out of him, and it feels like a wasted opportunity.

Luckily for us, director Ron Howard makes sure the film at least looks great. There are sweeping aerial shots of Rome and Vatican City that make you want to hop on the next flight. And be prepared for the coolest explosion ever during the final climax. | Adrienne Jones

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