Channel 5: Sunday 22 November, 9.00pm
The pope is dead. As the College of Cardinals prepares to enter Conclave to select the new pope, the Preferiti – the four leading candidates for the Holy See – are abducted. Four cardinals kidnapped from the Vatican after the Pope’s death! This leads to dark discussions behind the closed doors of the Sistine Chapel, as you can imagine. It’s up to earnest Ulsterman (!) Ewan McGregor to save the Catholic Church (and all its glory and gold) from the Illuminati, a legendary secret sect even weirder than the Knights Templar (and don’t get me started on the Loom of Fate). Tom Hanks is on hand to help, of course, replaying his Da Vinci Code role as Robert Langdon, Harvard’s know-it-all professor of symbology. (And, just to reiterate, there is no such position held by anyone, at Harvard or anywhere else.)
The excessively gabby plot goes on and on about anti-matter, as if that matters, and the threat of cataclysmic events is accompanied every step of the way by doomy, Omen-like music that, much like the plot, soon becomes meaningless. I don’t know, the big setpiece – the helicopter/anti-matter explosion over St Peter’s Square – is handled in a Chain Reaction way that struck me as funny, especially when Ewan was bouncing off rooftops yet remained unharmed. But then I found the basement full of red-cloaked cardinals in conclave funny, too; they looked bewildered, as though they’d wandered in from a Monty Python sketch.
Although the voice first heard announcing the Pope’s death sure sounds like Alfred Molina. Still, I’ve no idea why Vatican personnel doth protest so much – they come out of this deferential studio product smelling like rosaries. At various junctures, it echoes Nicolas Cage’s National Treasure (removing a document from the Vatican), Resident Evil: Apocalypse (the shoot-out in a smoke-filled church) and Brendan Fraser’s The Mummy (the toppling bookshelves in the Vatican archive).
It looks like a relic, too, filmed on soundstages like a studio picture from the 60s. Humourless and pompous stuff, stiffly performed, Angels is so hamstrung by its determination to flatter the faithful, it forgets to develop credible situations, never mind be exciting. It’s so pious, in fact, that it makes the Vatican’s complaints against it seem positively peevish. Maybe the book’s a different story; I wouldn’t know. The music, disappointingly, is by Hans Zimmer, with Joshua Bell screeching away on violin.