IN various religious texts and works of art, angels and demons are regarded as the messengers to the afterlife in either Heaven or Hell.

Ron Howard's action-packed film, adapted from the best-seller by Dan Brown, hovers somewhere between the two extremes, jettisoning the ponderous dialogue which blighted The Da Vinci Code in favour of a protracted game of cat and mouse around Rome.

The pace is certainly quicker by virtue of the lean script by Akiva Goldsman and David Koepp, which shifts the timeline of the source novel.

Thus, Angels & Demons is now a sequel rather than a prequel to The Da Vinci Code, which is referenced in a couple of lines of throwaway dialogue when characters remark on the strained relationship between Harvard professor Robert Langdon (Hanks) and the church.

The altered chronology matters little since Hanks is the sole returning member of the cast as the urbane symbologist whose encyclopaedic knowledge of secret brotherhoods proves invaluable in saving the holy city from destruction.

Angels & Demons is thankfully shorter than its predecessor and ultimately more enjoyable, trading in the history lesson for thrills.

Unfortunately, by excising so much of the plot that underpins Brown's book, Langdon is reduced to a glorified tour guide.

Production values are high throughout and the big set-pieces well orchestrated, including a hilarious and unforgettable moment in St Peter's Square.