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ANGELS AND DEMONS
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor, Ayelet Zurer, Stellan Skarsgard, Pierfrancesco Favino, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Armin Mueller-Stahl
Director: Ron Howard
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Sony
Features: See Review
Length: 138 Minutes (Theatrical), 146 Minutes (Extended)
Release Date: November 24, 2009

“Father, if God has issues, they won’t be with what I’ve done. They will be with what I’m about to do.”

Film ***

Angels & Demons is dire proof that something good can result from something completely the opposite. No other movie in the past several years has bored me to tears more than The Da Vinci Code. I honestly couldn’t remember a single interesting thing about it after seeing it, aside from the impressive location shooting and Hans Zimmer’s effective score to the film.

So I gave this follow up the benefit of the doubt, mainly because I was told by those who read the Dan Brown novel that it was even a better book than Da Vinci Code. I thought to myself, maybe it will end up being a better movie as well. And I’m glad I took my chances, because Angels & Demons basically gets everything right that The Da Vinci Code got wrong.

Whereas the first movie dragged unspeakably for two and half hours with nothing but one scene after another of overdone exposition, director Ron Howard gets this movie started on the right note almost immediately. The result is a movie that is much better paced, with a never ending mode of suspense and neat little plot twists that get you by surprised. Another crucial difference this time around is that of Tom Hanks, who gives much more effort into his role here than in The Da Vinci Code, which was the first to prove to me that even a great actor like Hanks is capable of sleepwalking through a performance.

Although the book itself was written before Da Vinci, the movie is rightly positioned as a sequel. What sets the story in motion is are two incidents which nearly happen simultaneously. Just after the pope has died, where in which the Vatican goes into a postmortem search for a new candidate, four cardinals have been kidnapped at the same time one of three canisters containing a deadly explosive material known as antimatter is stolen from a lab at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland.

When the Vatican receives the news about the stolen canister, it becomes clear that an underground rogue group called the Illuminati have surfaced. Fearing that the science based group is planning to strike the center of Rome with the antimatter during the pope's funeral, the church makes a desperate plea for help. The pope’s assistant, Camerlengo McKenna (Ewan McGregor) requests the assistance of Harvard professor Robert Langdon (Hanks) , hoping his expertise will help in finding the missing cardinals, as well as the location of the antimatter.

From this point on, Angels & Demons becomes an expertly crafted treasure hunt-like chase through the streets of Rome. Langdon is assisted by Vittoria (Aylet Zurer) a lab scientist from the Collider who wants nothing more than to get the antimatter out of enemy hands. Langdon also must deal with the head of the Vatican police, Commander Richter (Stellan Skarsgard), who is less than cooperative with Langdon’s presence.

It’s by no means a groundbreaking thriller, but the mere fact that this movie was able to surpass the dullness of The Da Vinci Code within the first ten minutes alone. And though the movie isn’t without moments of exposition, those moments are carefully handled and timed well as opposed the previous movie which was nothing but exposition. And you get the feeling that Ron Howard put more of his heart into the filmmaking this time around.

There are also some truly intense moments, including a well executed sequence where Langdon gets trapped inside a library that’s losing oxygen at the same time. And a later scene where one of the kidnapped cardinals is discovered hanging by chains and burning inside a cathedral had me on the edge of my seat thoroughly. And the movie does deliver a most exciting final half, as well as a final revelation I’m ashamed to admit I did not see coming.

Overall, Angels & Demons is a top notch adventure thriller with an amazingly lavish production to boot. It more than makes up for the monumental disappointment that was The Da Vinci Code, and would be a satisfying movie even if it wasn’t a follow up.

Video ****

The Blu-ray release from Sony is quite fantastic from beginning to end. The big-scale production really shines in the 1080p. Modern day Rome has never looked more stunning. Whether in sunlight or in nighttime, the level of detail in this picture is nothing short of stunning. Not a single image flaw in sight!

Audio ****

The DTS HD mix really adds a lot to this suspense adventure. So many of the set pieces provide fantastic surround sound quality. Dialogue delivery is stupendously strong, and the enthralling score by Hans Zimmer sounds absolutely incredible. And there’s a huge explosion towards the end of the film that will knock your socks off.

Features ***

This three disc set release from Sony includes some intriguing behind the scenes material. First off on Disc One, we get both the Theatrical and Extended Versions of the movie, as well as a Cinechat info track. Disc Two includes the majority of the extras. Included are the featurettes “Rome Was Not Built In A Day”, “Writing Angels & Demons”, “Characters In Search Of The True Story”, “CERN: Pushing The Frontiers Of Knowledge,” “Handling Props” “Angels & Demons: The Full Story” and “This Is An Ambigram”.

Disc Three contains a bonus Digital Copy.

Summary:

Ron Howard and Tom Hanks have come together for an adaptation of a popular bestseller…only this time it’s a very good movie. Angels & Demons is a terrifically paced, suspense filled mystery that will have you glued to your seat from beginning to end!

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