Not As Nuanced As The Novel

 

Da Vinci Code, The (2006) Review 5
Director:Ron Howard,
Starring:Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellen, Alfred Molina, Jürgen Prochnow, Paul Bettany, and Jean Reno
Length:149 minutes
Rated:PG-13

 

Time to state the obvious: the movie was NEVER going to be as good as the book and everyone knows it. Remember the first Harry Potter film or “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” Both were fine films, but you can’t do things as nuanced as some novels and remain faithful unless you’ve got a miniseries lasting a total of four or five hours.

This is not to say that Akiva Goldsman and Ron Howard don’t TRY. They did a damn fine job of doing an almost exact transcription of the Dan Brown novel, but the simple fact is that the book was at it’s best when expectorating conspiracy theories than doing chases. This isn’t Goldsman’s and Howard’s fault, it was Brown’s. The movie brings out the book’s plot-holes. It was too big a book to basically rip to shreds for cinematic purposes.

The film begins promisingly enough, with Opus Dei hit man Silas (Paul Bettany) blowing away Jacques Sauniere (Jean Pierre Marielle) in the Louvre museum while famed symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) giving a talk on his profession. The cutting back and forth between the Louvre and the lecture hall really works, and a fast-paced thriller is clearly in the making.

Judicial inspector Bezu Fache (Jean Reno) confronts Langdon at a book signing, and asks him to accompany him to the museum to check out the body. For fans of the book, we know what’s happening. Suddenly in comes cryptologist Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou), who jumpstarts the proceedings and the chase is on.

Meanwhile Silas is in communication with his boss, the evil Bishop Aringarosa (Alfred Molina), and more people start dying, and we haven’t even gotten to the star of the show, Sir Leigh Teabing (Ian McKellen) yet. That’s the problem with the whole thing.

The performances. McKellen is having a great time every moment he’s on the screen but nobody else is. Hanks seems to be sleepwalking through his part, and Tautou, who’s been brilliant in most of her previous work, is good, but not anywhere near outstanding. The whole plot, which has been a sensation throughout the world, falls surprisingly flat. Jesus wasn’t a virgin. How is that going to change anything? The Gnostic gospels have been rediscovered and have been public knowledge for quite a few decades now. They haven’t caused the church to fall. Any of them.

As a thriller, “The Da Vinci Code” isn’t bad. The special effects, recreating the Roman empire and Middle Ages and the like as ghostly figures works pretty well, but except for the beginning sequence, any sense of danger is missing.