Tom Hanks (b. 1956) is one of my favorite actors and producers. His body of work is diversified and immense. He is equally at home in a rom-com (Sleepless in Seattle - 1993, or You've Got Mail - 1998), or a heavy duty war drama (Saving Private Ryan - 1998). He pulls off light comedy and serious roles equally well.
I watched Angels and Demons (2009) yesterday, and it was enjoyable. This was Hanks' sixth collaboration with Ron Howard (b. 1954). Hanks and Howard work well together.
It is a big movie with a twisted story line and a huge cast, exactly what you'd expect from a big star and a big director. It has some problems, such as Ewan McGregor's (b. 1971) Scottish accent, in his role as an Italian priest. And, as in most action movies, I simply can't swallow the amount of punishment a character's body can withstand and manage to keep going.
Let's look at some of the smaller roles. Stellan Skarsgard (b. 1951) was intense, as usual in a dramatic role. But I keep seeing him in Mamma Mia! (2008) and that always shakes my impression of him. I must learn to watch the movie at hand and not connect it to every other role the actor has played. In fact, I think I drive my wife crazy when I mention other movies an actor has done.
Skarsgard has done 108 so far, and his portrayal of Bootstrap Bill Turner in the Pirates of the Caribbean series was spooky! In 1997 he was in Good Will Hunting, and brought out his intense face as a math professor.
The female lead was played well by an Israeli actress, Ayelet Zurer (b. 1969). With only 26 titles, most of them foreign, I think we can expect to see more of her. Look for her in Munich (2005) and Vantage Point (2008).
One of the cardinals was played by Armin Mueller-Stahl (b. 1930). Again, Stahl was outstanding. His role was as the cardinal in charge of the voting procedure for a new Pope. He subtly shows the internal conflict between his personal ambition to possibly become the next Pope, and the duty to God he holds close to his heart.
Stahl first came to my attention on TV in "Twelve Angry Men" (1997) starring Jack Lemmon, and then in The Game (1997) starring Michael Douglas (b. 1944). If you haven't seen The Game, what's stopping you?!?!? It is another great, twisted story. And Stahl may be one of my favorite Bit Actors.
The assassin is played by Nikolaj Lie Kaas (b. 1973) from Denmark. Kaas has 47 titles on IMDb, most of them foreign. My guess is that his voice was dubbed, since he had no accent in this film. He is a handsome man, so I would expect larger roles for him in the future.
Angels and Demons is worth watching. If you like action films, pick it up and make sure you have The Da Vinci Code (2006) as well. It's a good pair to have on a winter weekend.