Although the Dan Brown novel was written before The Da Vinci Code, the screen adaptation of it (directed again by Ron Howard) takes care to situate itself afterwards with a reference or two to the returning hero’s “recent involvement with, shall we say, Church mysteries” and his consequent strained relations with the Vatican: a sequel, not a prequel. Which one came first scarcely matters. It’s just another day in the life of a Harvard symbologist (Tom Hanks again, with a hair trim), spearheading, by virtue of his scholarly tome on the secret society of the Illuminati, a beat-the-clock investigation into the kidnap of four cardinals in line for the vacant papacy, the one-by-one, hour-by-hour murder of them in spectacular fashion in far-flung corners of Rome, and, for the pièce de résistance, the scheduled midnight demolition of Vatican City. Sportingly, the mastermind behind this diabolical plan has thought to provide cryptic clues to the Path of Illumination, leading from murder site to murder site to bomb site. Perhaps the built-in benefit of its earlier position in the bibliography of Dan Brown is that the plot can’t top The Da Vinci Code in nonsensicality and grandiosity. To cancel that, it does try. And try and try. With Ayelet Zurer, Ewan McGregor, Stellan Skarsgard, Armin Mueller-Stahl. (2009) — Duncan Shepherd
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