Angels & Demons Review
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Not long ago, director Ron Howard stunned critics and audiences alike by turning a rather simple yet significant interview into the gripping and suspenseful (and Oscar-nominated) drama, Frost/Nixon. Now he’s brought the same riveting suspense to Angels & Demons, the follow-up to 2006’s The Da Vinci Code.

As the film opens, the pope has died, and the leaders of the Catholic Church have gathered to appoint his successor. But, just as the proceedings are about to begin, four cardinals are kidnapped. Then a note arrives at the Vatican, stating that the cardinals will be publically assassinated—one each hour—and their deaths will be followed by a devastating explosion that will destroy the Vatican.

Included with the note is the symbol of the Illuminati, a secret society of scientists that hasn’t existed in hundreds of years. There’s just one expert on the Illuminati: symbolist Robert Langdon (who’s once again played by Tom Hanks, though he has a better hair stylist this time). And though the Vatican is hesitant to work with him, time’s running out, and he’s their only hope.

So, with the help of physicist Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer) and Camerlengo Patrick McKenna (Ewan McGregor), who’s in charge of the Vatican until a new pope is selected, Langdon races to put the pieces together before the Illuminati can exact their revenge on the Church.

Following the controversy over The Da Vinci Code, which stirred things up a bit at the Vatican, there was no way that the powers that be were going to allow Ron Howard to shoot the sequel (which is actually based on the prequel to author Dan Brown’s book, The Da Vinci Code) in Vatican City. Still, you wouldn’t know it from watching the movie—because the sets are shockingly good. From the stunning basilica to grand St. Peter’s Square, you’ll swear it’s the real thing.

But Howard probably didn’t need to worry too much about the accuracy of the sets—because, for the most part, they’re little more than a beautiful blur in the background as the action whizzes past.

In this break-neck thriller, you’ll rarely have a chance to catch your breath—let alone pause to enjoy the scenery. From start to finish, it conveys an almost frantic sense of urgency. The clock’s ticking, and there’s no time to stop and think—or to ponder the possibilities. Instead, much of Langdon’s figuring is done on the fly, in the passenger seat of a speeding car.

You won’t find anyone complaining that Angels & Demons is slow or dull (as many did with The Da Vinci Code). In fact, it’s so tense and gripping that I felt lightheaded when I left the theater, after spending much of the previous two hours holding my breath. It isn’t until the somewhat drawn-out conclusion that the pace lets up a bit, and, by then, I didn’t even mind—because it finally gave me a chance to catch my breath.

With some help from Hanks, whose performance perfectly expresses the severity of the situation, Howard manages to follow up an award-worthy drama with a crowd-pleasing thriller. Angels & Demons may not be loaded with superheroes or mutants, but it still makes for some breathtaking (and beautiful) summer entertainment.

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