Thursday, 11 August 2011

Angels and Demons

Pipped At The Pope!

Angels and Demons US 2009
Directed by Ron Hoard
Columbia Region 1

I remember that when The Da Vinci Code came out in the cinemas I wasn’t exactly chomping at the bit to see this movie. I’d... well not exactly read the book... but I had listened to the “talking books” style CD of the novel being read to me in the car on the way to a holiday destination one year and, quite honestly, couldn’t see what the fuss was about. I remembered buying my mother the book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail for a birthday present when I was about 11 years old and I thought to myself, as I listened to Dan Brown’s huge bestseller being read to me, that this was all just the same old Knights Templar stuff rehashed all over again... and that as a rule I found the Blind Dead movies a lot more fun.

But the main thing which stuck out to me about the novel was how uncinematic it was. I knew, by this point, that they were making a movie out of it and my impressions of the novel were that there was far too much exposition and people standing around in the same rooms talking for lengthy periods of time to make a decent visual narrative. So I was more than a little wary when I was dragged along to see the first movie, grudgingly letting myself be lead along to see it because Audrey Tautou and Jean Reno were in it. However, it has to be said that The DaVinci Code, all in all, made for a dull movie even with the presence of these two icons of cinema and, of course, the presence of the consummate professional Tom Hanks as the main protagonist, symbologist Robert Langdon.

My girlfriend at the time was besotted with the score and I certainly didn’t mind it, but I was not as much into Zimmer as I am now... I think the work he’s been doing since then is a vast improvement. But it wasn’t exactly a terrible score either and it was absolutely appropriate for the movie it was supporting.

The other thing I remember thinking was... well, why the heck were they adapting the second book in the series first? I’d not read the original first book in the series, Angels and Demons, but doing a movie adaptation of The DaVinci Code first seemed to me to make about as much sense as starting off the Bond series of movies with Dr. No. That is to say, totally illogical.

So, as you can imagine, when the sequel (and it is treated as a sequel rather than a prequel in the movie, with references to the first movie thrown in although the fictionalised events in that movie actually took place after the events in the sequel) came out I wasn’t exactly in a hurry to see it. Especially after finding that the BBFC had got it sliced for various sequences (the first movie also suffers from serious censorship issues in this country, with the sound being dialled down in certain areas to reduce the intensity of events on screen).

However I remember being completely bowled over by this one so I finally git around to tracking down the US extended edition of the movie (so I could see it totally uncut this time) and I have to say the sheer watchability of the film is not in any way diminished on subsequent viewings (I think I saw that one twice at the cinema anyway as I recall).

Angels and Demons is a totally different animal to the previous movie and while there are certainly moments of protracted exposition within the film, it rushes along at a heady pace and that’s quite a necessary response to the timeline of events in the novel (even though, as I confessed earlier, I haven’t read this one) as those events all take place within the space of just a few hours. Langdon has been called in by the Vatican police to help work out where the antimatter "God Particle" created by the Large Hadron Collider, but then stolen, has been put before it goes off after four kidnapped candidates to be the Pope are summarily executed, one hour after each other, by the Illuminati (gosh, it’s been a while since The Eye In The Pyramid!). As part of the ritualistic trappings of the killing, the assassin is having to leave cryptic clues about where the next death will take place and its these clues which Robert Langdon can puzzle out, and then hopefully dash to where things are about to happen and save lives.

What this means in practice is you get a kick ass movie which resembles nothing other than one of those old 70s cop TV shows where, inevitably, you will have an episode where the main protagonist has to run around the city from phone booth to phone booth by a certain time limit in order to stop a bomb going off somewhere. The last time I saw this plot approached in a fairly modern movie was when the villain used it as a distraction for the police in the third Die Hard movie, Die Hard With A Vengeance.

Here the plot is pretty much played straight, though, but coupled with some pseudo-religious trappings, some shoot-outs and daring escapes and two large dollops of intrigue and humour (in equal measure), you end up with something which is actually quite gripping and intriguing... and all with an absolute masterpiece of a score by the aforementioned Zimmer, which includes some of his most exciting compositions to date (you should all go listen to the track 160 BPM).

True, the few twists and turns there are in this movie are ones which you will see coming a mile off, but there’s really no substitute, is there, for a really well made, action thriller, and that’s exactly what Angels and Demons is. Of course, it also has some great actors in it with the likes of Ewan McGregor and Stellan Skarsgard lending their formidable talents to the proceedings. Also, as you would perhaps expect from a director who used to be Opie Taylor in The Andy Griffith Show and then Richie Cunningham in Happy Days (that is to say, someone who’s been around long enough to know the difference), the framing of the beautifully lit shots and the editing all make for a movie which makes the sum of its parts add up to a marvellously quasi-ancient atmosphere filled package... this is a classy action movie if ever there was one.

This one is certainly recommended for a viewing and all I can say to those of you who, like me, were spectacularly unimpressed with the previous movie in the series, is to not judge this movie by its predecessor and take a look at this one. You might just find your faith rewarded with a great little future DVD for your shelf.

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