Agora Movie Review

Ambitious in scope, this film feels over-serious and oddly cold. Fans of historical dramas may love it, but you're in trouble when theories about the sun and earth are more involving than the interpersonal dramas.

In 4th century Alexandria, Hypatia (Weisz) is a noted philosopher who teaches at the famed library. But the world around her is changing, as Greek and Egyptian beliefs conflict with Christians and Jews. And with the Roman Empire gaining power, the Christians have the edge. As Hypatia continues to explore her far-advanced theories about the earth and the universe, she finds herself caught between two men who love her: loyal servant Davus (Minghella) and the civic leader Orestes (Isaac). And the fundamentalist Romans aren't happy with her radical thoughts.

This is an odd misstep for Amenabar, who usually keeps his focus on people over spectacle to tell character-stretching stories. Those elements are here, but they're battered into submission by the film's lavish scale, with vast sets and a cast of thousands (both are probably digitally enhanced). It looks fascinating, avoiding the shiny bombast of Hollywood-style productions for something much more gritty and realistic. And the character-based story at least holds our interest even if it fails to make its point.

Weisz is terrific in an underwritten role that essentially requires her to send one tear down a cheek every 30 minutes or so. But this is a complex, intelligent woman who was way ahead of her time (her theories were unproven until more than a thousand years after her death). Her scenes with Minghella and Isaac generate some brainy emotion, and the supporting cast is also strong.

Although it's not easy to keep them straight beyond the villainous bishop (Samir), the rabble-rouser (Barhom) and the devout student (Evans).

We can feel Amenabar straining for a sweeping-epic tone, which never works because the story lacks emotional clarity. As a result, the dialog sounds stiff and meaningless, and the lack of sharp edges makes it feel more like a dull, ponderous TV movie than a big-screen blockbuster. Maybe it would have been more effective as a TV series in which characters and the tensions between them could have been deepened into something more satisfying.


Agora Rating

" Weak "

Rating: 12, 2009


More Rachel Weisz

A Week In Movies: On Set With The Hunger Games, Howard Hughes And The Lobster; New Trailers For Expendables 3 And Ninja Turtles

In Paris, Jennifer Lawrence was caught on camera as she shot scenes for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 involving a huge crowd of elaborately...

Leighton Meester Marries Adam Brody: 10 Couples Who Kept Their Wedding Secret

We were all a bit surprised with the news that Leighton Meester and Adam Brody had tied the knot in a secret wedding ceremony over...

Rachel Weisz, Colin Farrell To Star In 'Dogtooth' Director's New Sci-Fi Romance, 'The Lobster'

Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz have been cast in Yorgos Lanthimos' new science fiction romance, The Lobster, alongside the previously-announced Ben Whishaw ('Cloud Atlas'), Léa...

Daniel Craig & Rachel Weisz Stun in Broadway Production Of 'Betrayal'

How do you make a play about marital infidelity even more gripping, engaging and believable that it already did when it first left the pen...


Daniel Craig's 'Betrayal' Takes $1.1 Million For Seven Shows, A New Record

The Daniel Craig starring Harold Pinter play Betrayal has taken over $1.1 million for just seven preview shows on Broadway, breaking the Barrymore theater box...

X Files' Gillian Anderson To Take To The Stage In 'A Streetcar Named Desire'

Gillian Anderson will take the role of Blanche DuBois in an upcoming London stage adaptation of Tennessee Williams' tragic play A Streetcar Named Desire, reports...

Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz To Star In Pinter's Betrayal on Broadway

Rafe Spall will join Rachel Weisz and Daniel Craig on Broadway later this year in one of Harold Pinter’s seminal works, Betrayal. The production will...

Daniel Craig To Join Rachel Weisz On Broadway In Pinter's Betrayal

Harold Pinter’s semi-autobiographical tale of a complicated love triangle will, for the first time, unite Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Rafe Spall on a Broadway...