Agora ★★★★½

Alejandro Amenábar’s ambitious, big-budget biopic of philosopher Hypatia – The Passion of the Christ for atheists – struggled to find distributors around the world, was dumped into cinemas with barely any publicity, and was criticised by Catholic groups in Spain for defaming Christianity: the polar opposite of Mel Gibson’s berserk Passion Play. Who knows why audiences didn’t connect with this tragic epic: it has the requisite visual wow-factor, moves at a clip, and is easily accessible.

Perhaps no one wants to be reminded of the ancient — and modern — punishment and subjugation of women by vicious misogynists whose pitiful moral shortcomings and weak-minded thuggery lead to acts of barbarous evil. Rachel Weisz’s towering performance breaks the heart, bringing to life a great thinker whose fate is decided for her by infantile monsters: a loss to the world more profound than the library she tries to save. It should be required viewing for anyone who supports reason over superstition.