Ron Howard and Tom Hanks team up again, this time as Robert Langdon (Hanks) attempts to solve a murder and stop a terrorist attack on the Vatican.
Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor, Stellan Skarsgard, Ayelet Zurer
Praying for another $750 million absolution at the global box office, the fairly unholy trinity of Tom Hanks, director Ron Howard and "The Da Vinci Code" author Dan Brown reteam on Brown's earlier novel "Angels & Demons" and manage to be more obscure than a Latin Mass. Returning as Brown's Robert Langdon -- Harvard professor, symbologist and accident al hero -- Hanks is occasionally charming, when he's not busy explaining the history of the Roman Catholic Church and/or Western art. Howard, as usual, is like the papal bull in the Vatican china shop. Brown's story? As they might say in another house of worship, oy.
As "A&D's" many readers know, Langdon is recruited by a mysterious emissary of a mysterious biotech firm to help explain the mysterious death of a mysterious scientist whose chest was branded by his killer with the word "Illuminati," an ancient league of science-minded elites. The group, whose strategies against the Catholic Church aimed at destruction of the Vatican, has apparently resurfaced.
Langdon is stunned (1) that anyone knows what the Illuminati is, (2) that it might still exist and (3) that the group would assassinate a man of science. What the killer was after was antimatter, which the killer promises will be used to level St. Peter's Basilica (and much of Rome) -- but not until four kidnapped cardinals are murdered in a brutal, ritualized fashion.
Mercifully, there's no romantic link created between Hanks and much younger co-star Ayelet Zurer, who plays Vittoria, the intrepid physicist whose purpose is to fill in the gaps in Langdon's science education. As they embark on their mission to save Roman Catholicism, they encounter a young papal assistant (Ewan McGregor), a churlish Vatican policeman (Stellan Skarsgard) and an imperious cardinal (Armin Mueller-Stahl).
Just in case anyone thinks that the international character of the cast has something to do with brotherhood and ecumenism, the leaden "Da Vinci Code" made more than twice as much money overseas as in the States. The filmmakers may have faith, but they also know that God helps those who help themselves.
-- John Anderson (May 15, 2009)
Contains violence and gore.