Professor Hypatia (Rachel Weisz) with student Orestes (Oscar Isaac). (Teresa Isasi)
A heavy-handed story of horrible acts committed in the name of God, "Agora" manages to mix philosophy, history, hysteria and a love triangle and still be something of a bore.
The ones committing horrible acts here are Christians. The time is the fourth century, the place is Alexandria, and the central character is the philosophy professor Hypatia (Rachel Weisz).
Hypatia has a faithful slave, Davus (Max Minghella), who is in secret love with her. She also has a faithful student, Orestes (Oscar Isaac), who is not-so-secretly in love with her.
What she mainly has, though, is a head full of ideas and theories and questions, and that doesn't play too well with the increasingly powerful Christians in town.
Those Christians end up destroying the library at Alexandria -- the greatest of its time -- in the name of Jesus, which doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but somehow Hypatia survives.
Eventually though, a female philosopher who is something of an atheist, and who wields influence among the city's elite, is going to find herself in trouble. And she does.
Director Alejandro Amenabar ("The Sea Inside"), who co-wrote the film with Mateo Gil, keeps pulling his camera out into space, letting you know this is just one instance of religious intolerance in the grand cosmic view of things. And heaven knows the scenes of persecution, moral certitude and righteous ranting echo our modern world.
But Hypatia is such a distant, self-involved character that Weisz can't really build much affection for her, and her would-be suitors simply seem like pawns being pushed through the plot.
In the end, all the film has is Amenabar's moral outrage, which may be well-founded, but it's neither particularly enlightening nor entertaining.