THE DA VINCI CODE
*** (out of 5)
May 19, 2006
Tom Hanks as ROBERT LANGDON
Audrey Tautou as SOPHIE NEVEU
Ian McKellen as SIR LEIGH TEABING
Alfred Molina as BISHOP ARINGAROSA
Jürgen Prochnow as ANDRE VERNET
Paul Bettany as SILAS
Jean Reno as CAPTAIN FACHE
Studio: Sony Pictures
Directed by: Ron Howard
BY KEVIN CARR
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“The Da Vinci Code” is probably the most anticipated film adaptation to hit the screens since “Harry Potter” and “The Lord of the Rings” made their debuts five years ago. Fans of Dan Brown’s novel have weighed in on what they want, and the Catholic church has gnashed its teeth about some of the controversial aspects of the story.
I found it a little odd that this movie received more hype than the standard fare. I expected this type of discussion to precede the new “X-Men” or “Superman” movies. But you can never underestimate a good religious controversy.
Having never read the book myself, I can’t say whether this film was true to Brown’s original story. However, I have heard from a few people that it’s a pretty fair adaptation, all things considered. After seeing it, I was able to discuss it with my wife (who had read the book but had not yet seen the film) and be pretty much on the same level.
So, does “The Da Vinci Code” live up to the hype? Sort of. It’s not a terrible film by any stretch, but it’s not perfect either. It has its fair share of warts, and the other Tom Hanks/Ron Howard film (“Apollo 13”) is still a better film. But “The Da Vinci Code” is still a fun ride.
The story follows a professor named Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) who is linked to a murder that happened in the Louvre. When he realizes that he is a prime suspect, Langdon flees with cryptographer Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou). They must unlock a puzzle hidden within Da Vinci’s works and the Catholic church to solve the murders.
Strangely enough, the weak link in the film is Tom Hanks. Normally a great everyman actor, Hanks just seems uncomfortable in the shoes of Robert Langdon. His line delivery is stilted, and it seems that he’s trying to do a Russell Crowe impression throughout the film.
However, the rest of the cast more than makes up for Hanks’ shortcomings. Audrey Tautou turns in a solid, understated performance in her big budget American debut. Still, the stand-out performances come from Ian McKellen as the eccentric Holy Grail expert and Paul Bettany as the albino flagellating psychotic monk Silas.
The film runs a bit long, clocking in at just about two and a half hours. This isn’t entirely justified, but the film never grinds to a halt. It’s like a blind date – carrying just a little too much padding.
The movie has plenty of twists and turns, and there’s a lot of exposition needed throughout. Director Ron Howard does his best to make these sections visually stimulating with grainy flashbacks and some special effects. These moments seem awkward, but there’s no other way to get across this much history and speculation without bogging things down a bit.
Not since “The Passion of the Christ” has a movie caused as much religious controversy. It’s difficult to speak on the specifics without spoiling the plot twists and the ending, but suffice to say I have to agree with Tom Hanks on this one. People need to realize that this film is a work of fiction. Sure, there are plenty of concepts in here that are going to rub people the wrong way, but it’s all for the sake of story.
I find it to be a relief that Hollywood has made a film that isn’t labeled “Inspired by True Events” or any of that garbage. “The Da Vinci Code” isn’t trying to revolutionize religion. I don’t even know if it was made to spark a debate. In the end, though, it’s a decent thriller catching the first wave of the summer movie season.