Angels & Demons

Four til Midnight


15 May 2009| No Comments on Angels & Demons     by Sean Chavel


Angels & Demons can be seen as a glorified chase picture or as something more.  Certainly there exists chase pictures of good-tracking-down evil through non-descript alleyways, corridors, warehouses, and other generic passageways. Then there are glorified chase pictures like this one, which takes you through churches, crypts, catacombs and the streets of Rome – with all that backdrop splendor. Ron Howard (“Frost/Nixon,” “The DaVinci Code”) directs with robust energy and yet without regard to plausibility. So not more, but let’s say less.

The fate of four men rests in the hands of Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) in Dan Brown’s creation “Angels & Demons,” plus a ticking time bomb comprised of explosive antimatter that could blow up Vatican City and perhaps other bordering cities in Rome. The four men, by the way, are special candidates of the Catholic Church called Preferiti. The recent death of the standing Pope (terrific crowd shots of believers in mourning) requires an election process, and so the four Preferiti are mercilessly abducted by a shadowy group called the Illuminati. The bomb can’t be deactivated before anything else. Langdon explains to the Swiss Guard that each checkpoint has to be met and solved first, saving the holy preferiti, before they can locate the bomb.

The Illuminati is a 300-year running outfit of freethinkers that exists basically to overthrow the Church and they are threatening the Preferiti which is to be executed at 8, 9, 10 and 11 p.m. with the bomb going off at midnight. It’s Langdon’s job, along with Swiss Guard escorts and sexy scientist Vittoria (Ayelet Zurer), to race across town constantly to beat the clock. The diabolical plot carried out by Illuminati assassin Mr. Gray (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) is needlessly diagrammed. You may wonder why he isn’t named Jigsaw. As symbologist Langdon, Hanks has an overcranked highbrow that allows him be a convincing scholar and code-breaker. But the embedded codes themselves seem arbitrary after a certain point. All that’s missing is a hearty menacing laugh by Mr. Gray following any time the codes aren’t broken within assigned time.

If Mr. Gray is a rep of Illuminati couldn’t he have shown more mercy? The execution by cremation scene is gratuitously violent. Then again, we don’t know much about the Illuminati other than the broad description that they are a bunch of haters, so if inhumane killing practices is their thing then let it be. What is gossiped is that an Illuminati member has infiltrated the Vatican and is among the cloth. Ewan McGregor is the Camerlengo, the priest entrusted in overseeing the Vatican between papacies, and he makes his man of cloth into an understanding, gracious and pro-active supporting protagonist to our hero. Stellan Skarsgard as the Swiss Guard commander who suspiciously seems to counteract on Langdon’s progress. Then there is the private enclave of Cardinals where internal opposition is ongoing and possible traitors lurk.

The movie exhausts at 2 hours and 18 minutes. Hanks uses wit and sly dialogue asides to keep the audience engaged, occasionally bouncing off of his female co-star Zurer to get laughs (they clumsily play pretend husband and wife in one scene). His smart-cracker Langdon character continuously is put up against pompous characters that don’t believe his methods until he is able to sway everybody to follow his lead. Langdon also has to read through deception. Don’t ever count out the Double-Reverse. You know what that is – when a character appears good at the beginning to conceal his true evil. Or appears sinister and suspect only to turn out to be pure and good. The Double-Reverse can work in two ways.

Plot reversals and wisecracks don’t compensate enough to justify its running time or conceal the gaps in logic. The movie has some entertaining moments within its non-stop pursuit – the oxygen-zero library scene shot in saturated red light is a highlight – but the film has a hazy aftereffect where you remember running, lots of running. If you’re not already in Dan Brown’s camp then you are not going to have any deep long-lasting thoughts over this one.  Note: “Angels & Demons” is treated as the cinematic sequel to “The DaVinci Code” although Dan Brown’s “A&D” came published first.

138 Minutes. Rated PG-13.


Film Cousins: “The Name of the Rose” (1986); “Last Rites” (1988); “National Treasure” (2004); “The Da Vinci Code” (2006).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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