Directed by: Alejandro Amenabar Cast: Rachel Weisz, Max Minghella, Oscar Isaac Running Time: 2 hrs 7 mins Rating: R Release Date: July 23, 2010
PLOT: As the Holy Roman Empire begins to collapse with Christianity taking control, a scholar (Weisz) attempts to understand the mystery of the solar system.
WHO'S IT FOR?: Fans of historical drama, especially ones that can be compared to a modern context. Christians are certainly welcome by the movie, but they may not leave very happy.
EXPECTATIONS: Not having seen a trailer for the film until after, I had little idea of what to expect, with an exception of what would most likely be a decent performance from Weisz.
Rachel Weisz as Hypatia: The talented actress plays another intelligent woman, this one very ambitious and particularly vibrant with her ideas. Agora isolates her from the story, and her scenes of theorizing don’t really mix with the drama of the story until towards the end of the movie. In her own world of thought, the calm Weisz is moderately intriguing as a woman fighting on the side of knowledge amongst religious turmoil. Score: 6
Max Minghella as Davis: Nick Jonas’ great (times ninety) grandfather wavers in and out of the story when it comes to his importance, but he plays a crucial part in offering a story that exemplifies those who are recruited by Christianity. His crush subplot on Hypatia is weak, but the growing passion he has for worshiping only one god instead of many is not. Score: 5
Oscar Isaac as Orestes: Age assists an otherwise pesky performance from Isaac, who plays cocky naivety with too much flamboyance in the first hour of the film. He becomes more agreeable as both actor and character when put into a position of power that requires drastic decisions, especially when confronted by faith. Score: 5
TALKING: Even in 391 A.D, apparently they used clichés. Lines like “It’s a trap!” should be banned from movies, or at least given a suspension from cinema for a decade or two. Whenever Hypatia speaks, she does not have this same faultiness, and because of this the scenes in which her ideas are shared come across more effectively. Score: 5
SIGHTS: Agora uses a large scale in recreating the size of the Alexandria, Egypt. Extensive overhead shots are used to capture the entire landscape, which is often filled in the movie by giant mobs running through the streets. For the most part, the violence committed by these large crowds clashing into one another is shot without any intentional edge of an action movie. Don’t see Agora expecting sword and sandal duels, etc. Score: 7
SOUNDS: The sound mixing pays indirect tribute to the vuvuzela with its droning cries of battle royale that which make the mob-clashing chaos of Agora’s first half a bit tiresome. Equally bombastic is the score, which makes its presence known with heavy trembling chorals “aah’s,” an effective way to make the madness in the film a bit more disturbing. Score: 5
BEST SCENE: The conflicts that operate separately in Agora are mixed effectively towards the end when Orestes, in a position of power, decides to give up his Atheist wife (Hypatia) to the Christians, who think she is some form of a witch.
ENDING: Christianity does not look good at the end of this movie, and “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from Life of Brian can’t even save the pessimism fuming from this movie right before the credits roll.
QUESTIONS: Is Amenabar purposefully drawing comparisons between the old ways of Christianity and its modern interpretations? What is his own religious background?
REWATCHABILITY: While some scenes lag in pacing more than others, the highly political moments of the film could make a second watch interesting, especially with modern context. The "fight" sequences are not fresh enough to hold over the movie's audience on their own.
Agora is a movie of ideas, and just like Hypatia's theory of the earth revolving around the sun, they may be difficult for some to accept at their time. Amenabar's expansive film condemns religious war, (Pagans v. Christians, then later Jews v. Christians) and puts the "barbaric" nature of Christianity towards the center of those accusations. At the end of the film, after their destruction of buildings, people, and probably worse enough, knowledge, the origins of Christianity do not look very good. Now with the increasing debate of science or religion, a movie like Agora functions as an effective flashback worth considering that examines a heavy division between two ways in which people think they should live their own lives. As Agora points out, the circle of violence is inevitable when hatred consumes the minds of large groups as much as their own philosophical causes. In the same way that some knowledge, (some even pagan,) has changed the way we see our worlds, let's hope that we've learned a thing or two from these destructive events.
FINAL SCORE: 6/10