Review: “Angels & Demons”
Ah, Rome. My favorite European city. Gorgeous women. Bernini statues. And, of course, excellent food.
Appreciating Rome certainly helps me appreciate “Angels & Demons,” the sequel to “The Da Vinci Code.” The movie opens Friday, and stars Tom Hanks. It also stars Rome. There are great swooping views of Rome from above, from below, and from all kinds of impossible angles. You get the Vatican, the Pantheon, Castel Sant’ Angelo—the works. The trailer demonstrates what a tourist bureau’s dream the film is.
What the movie doesn’t provide is a plate of fresh puntarelle, the king of salads, and traditionally eaten in the spring. Given the season and the intensity of the Italian cinematic experience, my appetite was awakened. But I digress.
Compared to “The Da Vinci Code,” “Angels & Demons” is a masterwork. But that is rather like saying “Compared to Stalin, Mr. X is an exceptionally nice person.”
You may vaguely remember “The Da Vinci Code.” It was a thriller, with action consisting of Tom Hanks staring into the camera and sounding strangely like Wikipedia: “The term Rosicrucian describes a secret society of mystics, allegedly formed in late medieval Germany, holding a doctrine built on esoteric truths of the ancient past, blah, blah, blah.”
There also was a female character whose main dramatic function was to be stupid so that Tom Hanks could explain things to her. In the end she turned out to be the last descendant of Jesus Christ.
At least there is an exploding car in “Angels & Demons.” And the hero races from one church to the next with the help of the picturesquely striped Swiss Guards who outperform not just the CIA, but the KGB and the Mossad as well. The female character in this film is not quite as stupid as last time around; moreover, she is played by the delightful Ayelet Zurer. That’s a big improvement.
Needless to say, plausibility is still not allowed. And the plot is as full of holes as a hunk of Emmental cheese. On the other hand, the film does have a clear moral message, which is that even Catholics can be decent human beings as long as they are able to fly helicopters.
That is, I assumed that was the moral message until five minutes before the ending when everything in the movie is turned on its head and the priest and pilot are shown to be… But perhaps I´d better keep my mouth shut, or the Illuminati will come and get me.
The Illuminati are, naturally, what “Angels & Demons” is all about. A conspiracy of extreme rationalists bent on destroying the Catholic Church because of some of the usual unpleasant things like burnings at the stake that the Catholics did to them in the 17th century. Watching this film, one had the suspicion the Church might have been right and that the only mistake made was in not finishing the job.
The Illuminati are real creeps. In “Angels and Demons,” they torture old men to death for the sin of wearing funny hats and working as cardinals.
Just as one begins to suspect a logical fallacy here—how could rationalists be so irrational?—the whole shebang turns out to have been an inside job. Thus the world is put right again. The rationalists fade into blissful non-existence, and the men of cloth cannot be trusted after all.
It’s still not enough to distract me from my terrible hankering for a plate of puntarelle.
Hannes Stein is a correspondent for Die Welt, the German newspaper. He lives in Brooklyn.