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Angels and Demons

Year: 2009
Studio: Sony Pictures
Director: Ron Howard
Producer: Brian Grazer/Ron Howard
Writer: Akiva Goldsman/David Koepp/Dan Brown
Cast: Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor, Ayelet Zurer, Stellan Skarsgård, Armin Mueller-Stahl

Same adventures, new hair. Hanks returns as the closest thing to an American intellectual a blockbuster's ever likely to give us.

With many of the elements that made the original such a drawcard &ndash secret societies, an ancient European city riddled with religious artefacts, the corruption of a modern political religious order, the Brown/Goldsman (aided by David Koepp) /Howard holy trinity have a good time bringing Robert Langdon's latest thrill ride to the screen, and if you switch your critical faculties off to enough of a degree you will to.

When Langdon is asked to The Vatican in a hurry while the cardinals deliberate on electing a new pope, he's dropped straight into the midst of a crisis. It seems an ancient enemy of the Church - the Illuminati - has resurfaced to destroy Catholocism once and for all, kidnapping four cardinals to ritually murder around the capital once an hour according to an ancient and cryptic riddle. At the final hour, they'll strike the final blow by detonating an antimatter explosive device they've stolen from a secret project at at the firing of CERN's large hadron collider.

Langdon has to deal with a prickly Vatican police force to find his way around the city from one clue to another, but thankfully he gets another foxy female sidekick in the form of Italian CERN professor Vittoria (Zurer).

If you stop and think a little, you'll wonder why the bad guys didn't just stow the bomb in some anonymous apartment block instead of leaving it at the end of an elaborate trail of clues with statues in old churches pointing arrows at the next clue, just asking for Langdon to solve while he murmurs ancient names to himself and drives smart cars around old cobblestone streets through crowds of religious pilgrims.

It all ends with a much bigger bang than The Da Vinci Code did, complete with an antimatter explosion in the night sky and heroic parachute fall that makes it seem more like a cross between Where Eagles Dare. But after a minute you know there's going to be a twist - there's just a little too much story after the explosion not to set up a further development. I didn't see it coming and when all's said and done that's what storytelling's about wondering - what happens next.

In that regard, Angels and Demons is a complete success. Cleverly tapping into the zeitgeist of fears like the covered-up dangers of the LHC, it's a Choose Your Own Adventure for grown-ups.

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