This ambitiously weighted historical drama from Spanish helmer Alejandro Amenabar seems to favor an omniscient spectacle over people in addition to its altruistic postulating.
Agora stars Rachel Weisz, Max Minghella, and Oscar Isaacs, and can be described as a pretentious large-scale sword-and-sandal tale. The setting is late four-century Alexandria, Egypt during the Roman Empire.
Weisz's often watchable and riveting Hypatia is the actual philosopher whose free-thinking about the sun clashed with tenets espoused by Christians and Jewish thinking.
Hypatia teaches at the city's well-known library where plundering and bloodshed will occur with pagan types amid all the conflict.
For some, there may an unexpected thoughtful, metaphysical pull to all of the theorizing which wouldn't really be acknowledged till nearly a millennium later. But, Agora often feels emotionally detached perhaps because of what is behind the proclamation of those like Hypatia. It doesn't help that Amenabar's script collaboration, as well as the editing, and acting on the whole lacks a necessary cohesion or focus.
The primary support of the prominent Weisz comes from Minghella as a personal, faithful servant and Isaacs as a naive future prefect, but even they can't elevate what too often gets cumbersome, stolid and choppy. Even with some lavishly mounted set pieces that including a couple of edgy battle sequences.
A desirable intimate, interpersonal fervor with (here) a fair amount of gritty, realistic sweep is hard to come by in a rarely produced genre as an acclaimed Amenabar did so convincingly in The Others and The Sea Inside.