Review by Paul Stathakis | 2006

Da Vinci's theory

“The Da Vinci Code” will be regarded as the most controversial film of the year.  The long-anticipated thriller has generated large protests around the globe and perhaps the manifestations alone will drive audiences to see it.  Those who have read Dan Brown’s best-selling novel may draw certain comparisons and conclude that they were satisfied with the film adaptation.  Of course, there are others who will find it rather dull, okay, good but not great, over hyped, etc…  A mixed reaction is expected.

“The Da Vinci Code” fulfills its promise to entertain.  It is entertaining.  There are a great many references to mythology, God, Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Da Vinci, his paintings, symbols, codes that must be deciphered, archbishops, and the Opus Dei.  Even though we sometimes feel as though we are watching the sequel to “National Treasure”, the film manages to remain engaging at nearly three hours.

Tom Hanks stars as Robert Langdon, a professor of symbology (a term used by Brown that has not yet been recognized by dictionary editors) at Harvard.  When we first meet Langdon, he stands before a jam-packed school auditorium in Paris and delivers a lecture on symbols: how they ought to be interpreted and where some common symbols originated from.  Following his speech, Inspector Fache (Jean Reno) informs him of the murder of a museum curator named Jacques Sauniere (Jean-Pierre Marielle).  Langdon visits the Louvre to offer his opinion on the brutal murder.  He notices the position of the victim’s body (which calls to mind a painting by Da Vinci) and visible symbols written in his own blood.  There is even an encrypted message with a few numbers and a note to Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou), a French policewoman whom Sauniere raised after her parents’ tragic death.

Together Langdon and Neveu investigate Sauniere’s encrypted message and it brings them other messages where they uncover other deep mysteries.  Of course, it all comes down to one secret which is, in the viewer’s mind, either worth protecting or not.  You be the judge.  That said, there are secondary characters like Paul Bettany’s part as an albino named Silas, who works on the orders of a mystery man who calls himself the Teacher.  The teacher’s mission is, of course, to conceal the location of the Holy Grail.  Even Sir Ian McKellen’s part fits appropriately into the story.  But the performances are not mesmerizing and Hanks turns in a stoic performance that does not match up with some of his best work.  The same applies to Audrey Tautou who is not nearly as charming here as she was in “Amelie” (2001).  We embark on the search with the characters but we never believe that they are really capable of discovering the things they actually discover.  Exaggerated, a little.

To give away plot details would not be fair to anyone who has not seen the film or read the book.  The film gathered a negative response from critics who dismissed it as “a jumble of historical myth.” (Kirk Honeycutt of the ‘Hollywood Reporter’)  Many religious groups were offended by the film’s contents and shocking conclusion.  Dan Brown’s site, www.danbrown.com, contains a FAQ section.  One reader asks Brown just how much of his novel is true.  Brown contends that, “‘The Da Vinci Code’ is a novel and therefore a work of fiction.”  So, no, I don’t believe the film’s intentions are to modify religious views.  The idea here is to offer entertainment and Ron Howard has accomplished that.

 

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