Movie Review: The Da Vinci Code

The biggest movie of the year thus far, and probably the entire season, given the hype.
The Da Vinci code stars Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Jean Reno, Paul Bettany, Ian McKellen, and Alfred Molina.

I have not read the book although I own a copy and so cannot judge on how accurate or faithful to the book it is. I can only judge it as a cinematic piece of art rather than an adaptation.
Tom Hanks plays Robert Langdon, expert on symbology. While on a book tour in Paris, he is asked to come look at the scene of a murder, done in a ritualistic, symbol-laden style. Soon, with Audrey Tautou as cryptologist and police officer Sophie Neveu, he is plunged into long chases fraught with secret societies, murders, and a power struggle over those who would protect a two millenia old secret, and those who would do anything to destroy it.
Its overwrought melodrama, but I knew that before walking in. Some things in the movie work much better than others. I think Jean Reno was a bit wasted in his character of the dogged French policeman convinced Langdon is the murderer, a character that seems a little too monomanical, even viewed through the lens of the explanation of his actions in the denouement. Hanks does all right as the main character, as does Tautou as the female lead. But the performances are nothing special, like, say, Cast Away or Amelie. Bettany is the evil albino monk you’ve probably heard about, and I think he does all right given the part he’s been given. But, again, we’ve seen him do much better work elsewhere, in A Beautiful Mind and Master and Commander.
Clearly, far and away, the best thing about the movie is Ian McKellen as an old friend of Langdon’s who turns out, quelle surprise, to have motives and an agenda of his own. He knows what sort of movie that he is in, and he plays up his character more than any other three actors in this movie and steals every scene he is in. As for Alfred Molina’s character, on the other hand, his scheming Opus Dei bishop seems intriguing, but we don’t learn enough about him to really get a feel for him, which is a pity.
The movie continues to manufacture ways to keep the heat on the pot of water percolating for a long while, and when that heat finally is removed, the movie slows down toward its conclusion. The problem with breakneck paces is that you have to pace the rest of the movie properly. [info]arrefmak mentions this phenomenon in a re-viewing of the Incredibles. I don’t think this is Ron Howard’s fault (considering how well other works of his have come out) but more a function of the source material.
The best thing about Howard’s direction is his use of the visual to help us see how Langdon and Neveu do the things that they do. Its an effective technique that reminds me of the stuff Howard did with A Beautiful Mind, and it works here very well. I found myself wanting to get a long-wanted book on Code breaking (The Code Book, Simon Singh) after this movie was done.
Still, the movie has a lot of wasted potential and (except for McKellen) wasted actors. You might want to rent it, it would be worth a rental, or a matinee price at the theater if you really want to see it now.
I can see, now, why when National Treasure came out, that people compared it to The Da Vinci Code (the book). The trouble is, National Treasure is a better made movie, in my opinion, and more entertaining, perhaps because Turtletaub wasn’t straitjacketed by the source material.

One thought on “Movie Review: The Da Vinci Code”

  1. The DaVanci code was written as a novel in 2003 while the screenplay for National Treasure was written in 2004. Surely anyone can see National Treasure was thinly-veiled plagerism. The lone hero with assistance of a smart love interest figures out the clues, dodges the bad-guys, secret societies and the law, visits historical sites and ultimately finds the prize.
    “Turtletaub wasn’t straitjacketed by the source material.” Becasue…. national treasure was stolen… oh I mean written directly as a screen play instead of a Novel, adapted for the screen.

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