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Angels & Demons


Stars: Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor, Ayelet Zurer, Stellan Skarsgard, Armin Mueller-Stahl

Director: Ron Howard

Formidably well-made, exciting in parts, but less plausible than any James Bond film, this screen version of Dan Brown's coffee-table thriller re-introduces us to intrepid symbolist Robert Langdon (again Hanks). Having cracked the Da Vinci Code, Langdon finds himself called in by a reluctant Vatican when, a fortnight after the Pope dies, four of his most likely successors are kidnapped with the threat of one being killed every hour after a certain time.

And a canister of 'antimatter', conveniently just developed in the world's largest physics laboratory, is stolen - to provide a final cataclysmic conflagration an hour after the last cardinal has been dispatched.

All this is supposedly the work of the Illuminati, a secret society opposed to the Catholic Church; why they, or the mastermind behind the plot, should provide clues to the whereabouts of the hourly executions, when there seems no need, is a question presumably only Dan Brown can answer, any more than where the society's hired assassin gets the brands that sear 'Earth', 'Air', 'Fire' (bound to be a raging inferno here) and 'Water' on the hapless cardinals' chests. Hard to imagine anyone at the Vatican getting a special order for these, although an English MP might manage it on expenses.

For all this foolishness, though, and there is much more, the film, a combination of National Treasure and a whodunit, with serious religious and scientific overtones, is professionally written and deviously plotted, keeping you guessing this way and that (and probably wrongly) as the identity of the perpetrators.

The reason for culprit's actions, however, is just as silly as the rest of the story, very little of which makes any sense - though Howard's pacy direction and Hans Zimmer's drumming music may help you forget all that and just be entertained by a movie that never seems as long as it is.

David Quinlan

USA 2009. UK Distributor: Sony (Columbia). Colour by deluxe.
138 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 11 May 2009