Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Da Vinci Code

3/4

Starring: Tom Hanks, Audrey Tatou, Ian McKellan, Paul Bettany, Alfred Molina, Jean Reno, Jurgen Prochnow

Rated PG-13 for Disturbing Images, Violence, Some Nudity, Thematic Material, Brief Drug References and Sexual Content

I recall reading "The Da Vinci Code" in my room during the time when its popularity, and its ensuing controversy, was at its heyday.  It was a breathless thriller; smartly written, frantically paced and fascinating to ponder.  I saw the film with my dad, who was also a fan of the book.  There was no possible way for the film to replicate the breakneck speed with which I flipped those pages.  It wasn't until after I saw it a second time that I appreciated it more.  I guess this is an example of the situation that many critics talk about when they claim that some books or stories aren't inherently cinematic and either can't be filmed or must be substantially altered to do so.  Still, Ron Howard's interpretation of the novel, which couldn't be any less risk-averse, is as good of an interpretation as a $125 million price tag will allow.

A man has just been murdered in the Louvre.  Due to the strange markings on and around the body, the police have contacted Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon (Hanks) to assist them in solving the case.  Together with a pretty cryptologist named Sophie Neveu (Tatou), they piece together the clues that may rip the Catholic Church in two.  Needless to say, they are not without enemies, like a Catholic fanatic named Silas (Bettany), an overzealous Bishop (Molina) and a dogged cop (Reno).

If you've read the book, there's no real reason to see the movie.  Howard, perhaps aware of the hype and popularity of the novel, is unwilling to cut out or alter anything in the book.  That is its biggest flaw.  Movies are not books, and should not be treated as such.  What works on the written page doesn't necessarily translate onto the screen.  The only thing worth mentioning about the film is the score by the always great Hans Zimmer.  It suits the material perfectly.

For his cast, Howard has assembled some of the biggest stars on both sides of the Atlantic: Tom Hanks, "Amelie" starlet Audrey Tatou, Ian McKellan, Jean Reno and Jurgen Prochnow.  He also snagged Paul Bettany and Alfred Molina before they were famous.  Surprisingly, only Bettany manages to be memorable, probably because he has the most interesting part.  The two leads, Hanks and Tatou, are walking through their roles (Hanks especially so).  Ian McKellan is always interesting (even in crap like "Apt Pupil") and it's always nice to see Jurgen Prochnow.  Alfred Molina is adequate, but he doesn't have the script or screen time to do anything interesting.

"The Da Vinci Code" is what it is.  It's exactly what you would expect and nothing more.  On that basis, I recommend the film.  That is if you haven't already seen it.

Note:  For all its controversy, I find this movie to be much more spiritual than so-called "Christian" films like "War Room" and "God's Not Dead."  I think it's because it presents the belief in a higher power as an idea and a ray of hope, not a marketing tool the fringe right or a competition of who knows the most Bible verses.  Just sayin'.

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