Tom Hanks and Ron Howard return to another adaption of Dan Brown's thriller Angels & Demons. The book is the first of Robert Langdon's adventures but came out as a sequel to the box office success of The Da Vinci Code though the chronology isn't exactly clear from my viewing of which comes first. I had the time to just read this novel as I started the series when I heard of the recent adaptation so I can compare more directly with the text. The movie skips of interactions in CERN and the murder investigation and jumps directly to the terroristic plot that can only be stopped by Langdon's solving of the clues.
Hanks's Langdon teams up with Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer) to find the anti-matter that Vetra help create with her uncle? before it blow up the Vatican as part of an Illuminati plot. Working with the Vatican police headed by Commander Richter (Stellan Skarsgard) and assisted by Inspector Olivetti (Pierfrancesco Favino), Langdon and Vetra achieve access to the Vatican archives but only after being granted permission by the Camerlengo Patrick Mckenna (Ewan McGregor).
There is a lot more historical context as Langdon leads the hunt around Rome explaining the dense architecture and hidden code purportedly left by members of the ancient Illuminati. The assassin is revealed as played by Nikolaj Lie Kaas but there are still plenty of plot twists to keep viewers entertained as that is what Dan Brown specializes in and David Koepp does a decent job adapting to make comprehensible with all of the information.
The brutal killings are certainly more gruesome in this adventure as that was what Brown's novel called for with brandings and vicious messages being sent by the murders. The finale is stunning though it deviates from the novel in major ways. The movie moves more briskly and compacts the mystery with punctuations of action that make for fun viewing. McGregor is decent as the conflicted camerlengo forced into the leadership role. Hanks does a moderate performance helped by Zurer. A few of the casting choices felt a bit off as they made two characters into one.
I'm excited to watch the third installment in the series though it looks to be the worst of the three. Angels & Demons stands out as the best though it doesn't stir up the controversy quite as much as its predecessor. The sets looked nice since I doubt they were allowed to actually film in the Vatican but the setting of Rome really helps the mystery and the historical nature of the thriller. Overall these are decent films that may not be totally accurate but are fun to watch once or twice. I prefer the books but that is usually the case with adaptations and not always possible for those short on time.