The previous filmic incarnation of Dan Brown’s series of novels, The Da Vinci Code was met by intense criticism from the Christian section of the cinema-going audience. Those concerned that this new film may result in all Catholics renouncing their faith can set these fears aside. The film takes a few featherweight jabs at the Roman institution, but for every one thrown there is a parrying response; generally a forced piece of dialogue espousing the virtues of religion, which allows the film to rest firmly on the comfortable cushion of middle-ground.
Rather than viewing this as a criticism, the production team should be applauded for their intelligent decision to skirt over the debate, as it removes the tedious dialogue that made The Da Vinci Code so laborious. Instead, the director uses roughly the same themes to construct a ludicrous web of conspiracy that amounts to good clean summer blockbuster fun. The incredible architecture provides nice eye candy (made more impressive given that some are replica sets were made in America) and the action sequences are thoroughly gripping. The director continuously toys with the audience’s expectations and just about maintains sufficient dramatic tension throughout, with deft camerawork and an overblown soundtrack.
Rather than forcing it upon the audience, the thinking is left up to world expert symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), who is called in to investigate a threat from the elusive underground Illuminati organisation, which has kidnapped four cardinals and threatens to kill one on every hour, culminating with the detonation of a bomb composed of antimatter hidden somewhere in the city. Along with his suitably attractive physicist sidekick Vittoria Vetra, it is up to the professor to solve some clues embedded within the history of the Catholic church in order to save the cardinals and avert the explosion in a race against time.
If the premise sounds somewhat cheesy, that’s because it is. The detective elements are clinical and repetitive: Langdon will look stumped momentarily before discovering a vital clue by dumb luck, spout some historical jargon with an air of gravitas and then rush off to the next location to repeat the pattern five or six more times.
Aside from this main gripe and the vacuous dialogue, the film on the whole is enjoyable. If you are looking for layered character development and a deep philosophical treatise on religion, look elsewhere. If you want to disengage your brain and see money drip off a screen for two hours, there are worse ways to do so.