© Twentieth Century Fox of Germany GmbH

Illuminati (Angels & Demons)
U.S.A. 2009

Opening 14 May 2009

Directed by: Ron Howard
Writing credits: David Koepp, Akiva Goldsman, Dan Brown
Principal actors: Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor, Ayelet Zurer, Stellan Skarsgård, Pierfrancesco Favino

The team behind The Da Vinci Code returns for the second time in Angels & Demons, directed by Ron Howard, and based upon the bestselling novel by Dan Brown. Tom Hanks reprises his role as symbologist and historian Robert Langdon, but this time with a different sidekick – Vittoria Vetra, a researcher at CERN (European Council for Nuclear Research) played by Israeli actress Ayelut Zurer (also seen in the movie Munich). Ewan McGregor plays the Camerlengo, the acting head of the Vatican when the Pope dies at the start of the movie prompting the College of Cardinals at the Vatican to elect a new Pope, and they settle on four possible options known as the Preferiti.

I initially agreed to watch this movie a little wary but curious, as I had read The Da Vinci Code (DVC) and subsequently also watched that movie, but didn’t find either very impressive aside from the suspense created and conveyed in both mediums. This time, I went to the movie without having read the book, curious to see if my impression of a movie might be altered by not having read the book. I found again that the suspense created via music and cinematography was pretty compelling, and I enjoyed that. I also enjoyed the movie’s setting in Rome, and the opportunity to view the architecture and art of familiar places through the protagonist Langdon’s eyes as full of symbology with a bit of art history thrown in.

Plot-wise, it seemed much the same and predictable as DVC, set around a quest to decode the practices and history of an ancient secret society – the Illuminati – and to ‘save the world’ from them. The society (as represented in the movie) was comprised of highly respected individuals in history with a passion for science and discovery such as Galileo and Bernini. The society and the Catholic Church came to odds when the latter sought to suppress the society thinking that their discoveries undermined religion. Their members were oppressed and forced underground approximately 400 years ago and resurface now for revenge, kidnapping the Preferiti, and threatening to kill one each hour with a bomb set to go off at the Vatican at midnight ‘consuming it in light’. Langdon is called in to decode clues from the ancient society as to where the Preferiti are to be executed, and where the bomb is hidden. Vetra’s expertise is sought as the bomb utilises a canister stolen from CERN containing the “God particle” – the isolation of antimatter that determines clues to creation which Vetra had been researching. The plot therefore revolves around Langdon and Vetra together with various Italian authorities racing against time to save the Preferiti from being executed, and to dismantle the bomb. There is some gruesomeness in the deaths, and a twist at the end which is semi-expected if one knows the Dan Brown style, but the form that the twist may not be entirely obvious until most clues are revealed.

Something I found interesting was the symbology itself in the twist at the end– the act of self sacrifice which represents the ‘purest form’ of what the church stands for. I also liked the underlying message that science and religion were not necessarily incompatible disciplines, but could seek to enhance each other. Other than that though, the movie was generally something I would watch only if I had the time – a moderate action-thriller! (Shirani Alfreds)

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