Alternate Reviews

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

THE DA VINCI CODE (Alternate Review)

Tom Hanks The Da Vinci Code Directed by Ron Howard
Starring Tom Hanks
Reviewed by Chad Wilson



The Da Vinci Code book by author Dan Brown has been discussed so much since release, the controversy has taken on a life of its own. So it can come as no surprise that the film adaptation has generated an equal if not greater controversy prior to release. Yet lost in most of the debate is a simple question for this film fan: is The Da Vinci Code a good movie?

The Da Vinci Code is a thriller which delves into religious iconography and myth to tell the story of a Semiologist (called the fictional discipline “Symbology”) named Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) who becomes involved in a mystery after the death of an old colleague in France. Hank’s Langdon is approached by DCPJ officer Bezt Fache (Jean Reno) and brought to the Louvre Museum to assist Fache’s investigation. Here Langdon meets the curator’s granddaughter and cryptologist Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou) who discreetly informs Langdon that he is Fache’s prime murder suspect. Escaping Fache’s custody, Langdon and Neveu investigate the curator’s death, leading the two on a perilous chase to discover a conspiracy by the Catholic Church that conceals the true story of Jesus Christ.

If the plot of Code sounds contrived at this point, trust that it is very much so and more despite director Ron Howard’s effort. The introduction of Langdon into the conspiracy is just barely plausible, an error that ever impedes one’s suspension of disbelief. It doesn’t help the narrative that a side story about $20 million and Bishop Manuel Aringarosa (Alfred Molina) is never explained or that the relentless assassin monk Silas (Paul Bettany) is given flashbacks while stalking our heroes. The film is so full of useless information the last thing it needs is lengthy exposition, but we get that in spades with the inserting of Langdon’s friend Sir Leigh Teabing (Ian McKellen). McKellen spouts near endless drab dialogue, but he does manage to inject some humor and life into an otherwise dark and dull movie. How dark it is indeed, a film so clouded by shadow it comes off as annoying rather than anything a viewer could appreciate as cinematic style.

So much goes tragically wrong in the execution of The Da Vinci Code it becomes a puzzle in itself choosing where to start a critique. The humorless main characters, the dreadfully lengthy exposition, the boring first two-thirds, the constant out of focus closeups, and yet more disparaging criticisms could be written to fill two reviews. The list of faults could be overlooked if a strong script engaged the audience. Instead, Code offers nothing engaging at all and opts instead for Langdon and Neveu literally stumbling unto solutions without so much as an ounce of deduction or reason. Who needs Sherlock Holmes when dumb luck will suffice?

In defense of Code, the story itself is a rather fresh setting for a tried and true mystery thriller. While Howard’s directing of Code does little to distinguish the film from other such films as National Treasure, the concept of a conspiracy surrounding the true nature of Jesus is compelling. Many will find a lot of interesting thoughts and theories on western religions and the history of which is called into question. Even in such a lifeless film as Code, there are a few thrills to be had and some genuine twists will satisfy those with low expectations. However, the controversy preceding the release is by far more impressive and entertaining than the film itself. If any film deserves to be derided for creating a lot of hype about a lot of nothing, The Da Vinci Code certainly qualifies.

The Da Vinci Code is an average conspiracy thriller whose only claim to fame is a pre-release controversy.

Click here for The Da Vinci Code movie trailer!

Click here for Byron's review of The Da Vinci Code.


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