You can tell pretty quickly in this film that Gregory Widen, the man who shot Highlander, also shot this film. It involves a number of great actors, a really bizarre premise, and some great landcapes and characters. In both movies you have to agree to suspend your disbelief about the plot, and just enjoy the power that each actor puts into his or her role.
Here's the basic summary. Angels are not the Renaissance golden-haired glowy, friendly creatures that DaVinci conned us into believing in. Re-read your Bible. Angels were the holders of swords of flame. Angels were the ones out there slicing down the non-believers and killing by the thousands. They were a fierce army. Unknown to mankind, many angels were pretty grumpy when Jesus died on the cross and in essence elevated mankind over the angels. The angels felt betrayed, ignored by God. It's like when Mom came home with a new baby brother and suddenly the new baby was the one getting all the attention. The angels were the older sibling, about to throw a temper tantrum.
Fast forward to modern times. You have an ex-priest-wannabe-turned-cop Thomas, played by Elias Koteas, who starts to get called in on some strange cases. Turns out the dead guy they find is a hermaphrodite, is carrying a 2nd century Bible and is branded with the mark of an angel. The trail leads to Simon, another angel, who is trying to help keep a "really evil soul" from Gabriel (Christopher Walken). Gabriel wants this evil soul to help him storm heaven, to make God pay for turning His back on all the angels. Simon gets his hands on the soul in question, but with Gabriel hot on his heels, he has to hide it somewhere. He puts it into a Native American girl's body.
Soon we have a showdown betwee Thomas, Gabriel, the young girl, her tribe, and of course Lucifer, played by Viggo Mortensen. It comes down not to a fist battle, but to a theological argument - how Gabriel looks down on all of us "monkey boys" but is insanely jealous that God will not talk to him any more.
So there are many plot problems here. With the war going on for 2,000 years, they are saying that the prophecy of the worst soul of all was some Korean War guy that just died?? Because he resorted to cannibalism?? Heck, I'm sure we can name many people who became cannibals in desperate times. They're pretty sure the Pilgrims did that when they were all freezing / starving to death. It's sad, but if you're about to die, you make some not-so-sane (or maybe sane depending on your point of view) decisions. Surely if they wanted the Ultimate Evil they could have gone for Hitler ... or one of his scientists ... or how about Pol Pot slaying 2 million people? Some small time cannibal is the worst they could get?
Then, we have Simon walking into a church to an open casket coffin and taking the soul. Do they really leave coffins open all night long in churches? When Simon took the soul, he really had NO plan at all of what he was going to do, knowing he was injured, and just randomly decided to stick it in this girl? The village had many 30 people in it total. Even if Gabriel had to slay everyone in the village to make sure he got to the soul, it didn't seem like much of a problem for Gabriel. He rather would enjoy that.
However, like I said, plot isn't a big thing here. The characters are. Christopher Walken is EXCELLENT as Gabriel, once the shining boy of God, now cut off from the voice. He's eternally young, powerful, and good at manipulation. He believes completely in his right to power and is just so incredibly weary of stupid little monkey-people screwing things up. That all being said - he can't drive?? Surely sometime since cars were invented he could have learned.
Elias is great as Thomas, the doubter who slowly regains his faith. Virginia Madsen (Sideways fame) does well as the schoolmarm who sticks up for Mary, the young girl. Mary really puts in a chilling performance as a once-innocent girl who becomes possessed with the soul of a calculating soldier.
I really enjoyed Lucifer when he showed up at the end of the movie. He perches like a gargoyle, looking down at all of us squirming humans. But he doesn't come across as evil - oh no. Everything the Bible says is that Lucifer is handsome, seductive, oh so compelling. He tells us things we want to believe. In fact it's hard to resist him. In the movie, Viggo slides around the people he talks to, circling them like a snake, moving in close. He wants you to trust him ... he says he doesn't want another Hell, he wants to be the sole ruler. He's going to HELP the humans. If they just trust him.
This isn't really a spoiler, since the movie is rather transparent from start to finish, but I was REALLY disappointed that Lucifer's aims were so straightforward. He is above all a deceiver. So what did the plot do? They put him in where he told the truth, people believed him, did what he said and it all worked out. It was a real let down! Viggo did such a great job with the smooth, "beautiful", ultimate power of Lucifer that I was waiting for his dialogue to all be a complex set-up to deceive the people. Instead, nope, he just walks away and turns into a cloud of blackbirds, much like many other movies on this topic.
Still, again, the plot has holes. You just deal with it. There really is a lot of beauty in the storyTELLING - from the landscapes people go across, to the looks in the actors eyes in various scenes. It really is quite telling that some angels have no eyes when they are found - and that other scenes focus in on the eyes as the window to the soul. Since, after all, that is what the movie is all about.
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