THE DA VINCI CODE

 

Review by Mark Walters

 

If you haven't heard of the book THE DA VINCI CODE, where have been, under a rock?  It's easily one of the most talked about books of all time.  Theologians and hardcore Christians have debated it's theories and suggestions probably more than many people have debated The Bible.  Regardless of your feelings, it's obviously struck a chord with many in a good way, as the book has become one the most popular titles ever printed after only being out for a few years.  Needless to say Hollywood didn't take long to figure out a way of bringing this story to the big screen in a big way.

 While in Paris on business, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) is asked to help investigate the murder of The Louvre's elderly curator, who was found dead inside the museum.  Before dying, the curator carved a series of symbols on his own body, and left a puzzling message which police found next to the body.  Solving the enigmatic riddle, Langdon is stunned to discover it leads to a trail of clues hidden in the works of Leonardo Da Vinci.  These clues are visible for all to see, and yet ingeniously disguised by the painter.  Langdon joins forces with a gifted French cryptologist, Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou), and learns the late curator was involved in the Priory of Sion, a secret society. In a race through Paris, London and beyond, Langdon and Neveu match wits with a faceless powerbroker who appears to work for Opus Dei, a Vatican-sanctioned Catholic organization believed to have long plotted to seize the Priory's secret.  Unless Langdon and Neveu can decipher the puzzle in time, the Priory's secret and a stunning historical truth will be lost forever.

 While THE DA VINCI CODE strives to be true to its source material, the overall effect comes across as a bit boring.  The initial fascination brought on by the story's puzzles quickly digresses into scene after scene of theories and exposition, never seeming to truly enthrall us like it should.  Tom Hanks is poorly miscast as Robert Langdon, and doesn't really have much to do here aside from look perplexed.  However Audrey Tautou (who was phenomenal in AMELIE) turns in a career-making performance as Sophie, holding her own amidst the English and American accents around her.  Ian McKellen shows up as a friend of Langdon's, and is endearing as always, but even he can't work wonders with the plodding script.  There is a variety of other recognizable actors playing various supporting roles.  Paul Bettany portrays an mentally tortured assassin for Opus Dei, and while his character is supposed to be scary, he unfortunately comes across looking like a reject James Bond villain.  I kept thinking he would become more interesting in the story, but like most of the others he's just sort of there.  Alfred Molina plays a bishop manipulating members of the church and others to accomplish his goals.  It's yet another character that is sadly underdeveloped.  The normally incredible Jurgen Prochnow even makes a brief appearance as a banker, and ends up being way too over the top with his performance, so much so that I wish he hadn't taken the role.  The only actor (besides Tautou) who really seems to nail it is Jean Reno, as the determined police inspector Captain Fache.  Ron Howard directed the film, and while the style is handled nicely, the substance within just falls flat.  Running well over two hours, the pacing never gets going enough to keep us interested.  I'm sure that trying to fit all of the important elements from the book into this script was a bit of a challenge, but this is just one of those cases where the novel works better than the film.

As for the controversial elements, they're all in here.  Theories such as Jesus being married to Mary of Magdalene and having a child are presented, and while they're handed to us as hidden truths no one has yet discovered, the film makes sure to point out that everyone has their own theory.  You must ultimately decide what you personally want to believe, or what you know in your heart to be true.  The Catholic church has been in question for many years now, and it's not unusual to think there are many secrets they're keeping, possibly for their own benefit.  Being Catholic myself, I found the theories fascinating, regardless of what may or may not be true.  What's really necessary for audiences to remember is that the book and movie are both fiction.  This is not meant to be a documentary, nor are they trying to say anything presented is fact.  Religion in films is a theme that can often bog down an otherwise entertaining story.  That's not to say you can't have an exciting film with religious undertones.  Just look at the INDIANA JONES flicks.  But THE DA VINCI CODE is a little too bland for moviegoers these days, and in this time of big summer films it most likely won't fare well after its initial opening weekend hype.  As a Tom Hanks vehicle, it's rather disappointing.  As a Ron Howard film, it's fairly lackluster.  As a story surrounding religious beliefs, it's at the very least thought provoking.  As a movie, I'm sorry to say it's pretty forgettable.

BIGFANBOY.com score - On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being best, I give THE DA VINCI CODE a 5.


Visit the official Sony Pictures THE DA VINCI CODE movie website by clicking here.


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