The Da Vinci Code - Review
Review by Jack Foley
MOVIE-goers can always put their faith in Hollywood to stir up a good religious controversy. Two years ago, it was Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Now, it’s the turn of Ron Howard’s The Da Vinci Code.
Based on the phenomenally successful best-seller by Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code is notable for alleging that Jesus was merely a mortal, that he married and had a child and that his blood line still exists today.
Catholic priests have subsequently become extremely hot under the (dog) collar and leading Catholic groups across the globe have been calling for a ban, or at least some form of disclaimer, as they actively seek to censor its claims.
Yet for all the furore surrounding the film, the one undisputed fact surrounding it remains that it is a work of fiction. For sure, its claims are bold and undoubtedly place a question mark over ‘the greatest story ever told’, but if this really is a case of God versus Dan Brown, surely The Almighty wins every time?
In movie form, The Da Vinci Code is, first and foremost, a blockbuster. As such, it is a thoroughly entertaining piece of hokum that takes an intriguing set of claims and turns them into an exciting big screen yarn.
Tom Hanks stars as famed symbologist Professor Robert Langdon who is called to The Louvre in Paris after the murder of a respected curator.
The French police, led by Jean Reno’s dogged Captain Fache, suspect him of the crime and attempt to trap him but Langdon manages to elude them with the help of Audrey Tautou’s police cryptologist Sophie Neveu, with whom he subsequently teams up to solve the crime.
Along the way, there’s an albino killer monk (Paul Bettany) to evade and an eccentric historian (Sir Ian McKellen) to enlist as an ally.
For the most part, the film version stays loyal to the book, changing only aspects of the ending and several character arcs in the process.
But this is both the film’s strength and its weakness as readers are certain to feel a lack of tension during the opening hour or so if they know what’s already coming.
Hanks, too, looks a little uncertain during the early exchanges, although he settles in well to the task of portraying Langdon.
The film really picks up, however, once McKellen arrives on screen as the actor is clearly revelling in the role of Sir Leigh Teabing, delivering an almost note-perfect version of Brown’s literary creation.
Whether exchanging historical banter with Langdon and Neveu, or merely rolling out the theories that may undermine Christianity, he is clearly having a whale of a time.
Bettany, too, provides a suitably chilling presence as the albino monk, Silas, hinting at the torment that besets his tortured soul.
But just as the novel runs out of steam during its final section, so too does the film and some viewers may find the resolution a little underwhelming – even in light of the changes.
The sheer volume of theories that emerge during the middle section of the film may also be a little confusing for those who have not read the novel despite the best efforts of Howard to illustrate them by using historical flashbacks (a ploy that is only partially successful).
Criticisms aside, however, there’s still plenty to entertain and The Da Vinci Code capably adapts Brown’s page-turner into a slick big screen adventure.
Devout Christians may be praying for the movie to fail, while conspiracy theorists will be in seventh heaven. But those with a level head should just sit back and enjoy the film for what it really is – a quality piece of escapism that’s by no means as sinful as the controversy suggests.
Running time: 150 mins
- Buy the DVD
- Buy the UMD for PSP
- Read our review of the film
- Paul Bettany interview
- Pakistan bans The Da Vinci Code movie
- Da Vinci Code on course to be second highest opener of all-time
- Stars at Waterloo as global controversy mounts
- Read our preview of the film
- Howard denies movie disclaimer plea
- Judge dismisses Da Vinci Code legal claim
- Legal case threatens Da Vinci Code release
- Catholic group calls for adult rating
- Read our review of the book