The Da Vinci Code

 
Directed by: Ron Howard
Written by:Akiva Goldsman
Starring: Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellen, Alfred Molina, Paul Bettany, Jean Reno
Released: May 18, 2006
Grade: B

The cinematic version of The Da Vinci Code will be huge.  It opened the prestigious Cannes Film Festival and is being released in almost every country on the same weekend.  The film has been withheld from critics so that no early reviews can dampen the anticipation.

I finally got the chance to see the film on the night before its Australian release.  Funnily enough, the reel caught on fire at the two hour mark.  It took 25 minutes for the projectionist to fix the problem and restart the film.  Since there are some religious groups who don’t want this film seen, I can’t help but think this event was the result of some “divine intervention”.

The Da Vinci Code is one of the most widely read books of the modern era.  First released in 2003, Dan Brown’s novel has grabbed the attention of almost everyone.  Those people expecting the movie to be equally captivating will be frustrated by what they see on screen.  Let’s face facts.  You simply can’t take a detailed novel and condense it into two and a half hours.

This leads to what is an obvious criticism and that is that the movie feels condensed.  Certain parts of the story are left out and others are underdeveloped.  Bishop Aringarosa’s plan and the motivations of Opus Dei were not made clear.  Flashbacks are included to help us understand the history behind the story but they lack the interesting detail of Brown’s novel.

If you’re one of the few who hasn’t read the book, The Da Vinci Code begins at the Louvre art gallery in Paris.  Its curator, Jacques Sauniere, has been killed.  Before dying however, Sauniere left a series of symbolic clues which have confused police detective Bezu Fache (Reno).  He has asked for Robert Langdon (Hanks), a professor of religious symbology, to be called to the scene.

Langdon quickly realises that Fache isn’t after his advice.  Before dying, Sauniere wrote the name “Robert Langdon” on the floor and Fache believes that Langdon is the killer.  With the help of new friend Sophie Neveu (Tautou), Landgon flees the scene and begins a quest to clear his name.  Together, they start piecing together Sauniere’s clues to see where it will lead.  With the entire French police force looking for them though, time is running out…

When I read the book, I was fascinated by its discussions of religious symbology.  It was also great reading the discussions between Langdon and Neveu as they tried to interpret the clues and break the codes along the way.  In the film, there isn’t enough time devoted to these areas.  The riddles are solved too easily.

The highlight of the film is the appearance of Ian McKellan as Sir Leigh Teabing, a fellow historian.  McKellan has the best lines and his spirited personality has Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou looking like emotionless cardboard cut-outs.  Jeno Reno is also good with his famous French accent but is given very little screen time.

The Da Vinci Code will be remembered more fondly as a novel than a movie.