No silly haircut for Tom this time round in his second adventure as intrepid symbologist Robert Langdon, uncovering another dark conspiracy plot. Though based on Dan Brown's prequel to The Da Vinci Code, this new movie is presented as a sequel, with Langdon journeying to the Vatican and receiving stiff opposition in certain quarters due to the publishing of his previous thesis.
He's summoned there by officials to investigate the Illuminati, an antagonistic organisation who have kidnapped four cardinals, all potential papal nominees, and are threatening them with death at every hour on a particular day. The villains have also stolen a dangerous anti-matter device that can cause widespread destruction. Langdon hotfoots it from holy place to holy place accompanied by the determined Italian scientist Vittoria (Zurer), but the Vatican and especially police chief Richter (Skarsgard) are not helpful to his efforts. McGregor plays the idealistic assistant to the recently deceased Pope, who tries to be more helpful and sympathises with his efforts though.
It's faster-paced than The Da Vinci Code if slightly monotonous, but in the latter stages a secondary character comes into his own and offers a few surprises, if you're not familiar with the novel. The dialogue is sometimes difficult to understand because the characters mumble too much, and some of the Italian accents are too thick to comprehend, but Hanks is reliable, Skarsgard convincingly suspicious and McGregor gives a good account of himself as the trusting novice keen to move the Church into the 21st century.
The CGI effects are superb, with one massive explosion that's very impressive. Certain stuffy critics will complain that the movie takes itself too seriously. Ignore them - it doesn't. It's put together with good old Hollywood know-how and is an enjoyable time-filler if you're in an undemanding frame of mind. Tosh to be sure, but entertaining tosh nonetheless.
EXTRAS **** This Blu-ray (and DVD) release is perfectly timed to coincide with the release of Dan Brown's new novel, The Lost Symbol. But sadly, the novel is not a bonus feature here (although we have come to expect some pretty special extras on our Blu-rays). What the Blu-ray does include is two different versions of the film - the original theatrical cut, and a new extended version of the film. Another nice feature is an interactive map, The Path of Illumination, in which viewers can follow Langdon’s journey through Rome, exploring architecture, discovering new facts and seeing extra behind-the-scenes footage and interviews from each location. There are also three behind-the-scenes featurettes: Angels & Demons: The Full Story, a complete behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film; Rome Was Not Built in a Day, which follows filmmakers as they share their secrets to creating the world of Angels & Demons; and CERN: Pushing the Frontiers of Knowledge, a look at one of the world’s largest and most respected scientific research centres. And there's a new BD-Live feature called movieIQ, which allows viewers to access continuously updated information on the cast and crew and explore relevant trivia such as production facts, music and soundtrack information all tied to scenes within the movie - a sort of built-in IMDb. All up, a lovely collection of bonus goodies, but an audio commentary from Ronald and the gang would earn this release a perfect score.