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Movies Review

The Da Vinci Code

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The Da Vinci Code
Released on Thursday, May 18 2006

Director Ron Howard
Screenwriter Akiva Goldsman
Starring Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellen, Jean Reno, Paul Bettany
Running time: 148 mins
Certificate 12A

Whilst in Paris for the launch of his new book, American symbology expert Robert Langdon (Hanks) is called to the Louvre to help the police shed some light on the bizarre murder scene of its curator. With the help of the victim's granddaughter, cryptologist Sophie Neveu (Tautou), Langdon sets off on an adventure following clues hidden in the works of Leonardo Da Vinci which will bring him face to face with one of Christianity's greatest secrets.

Though Dan Brown has been criticised by the academic world for not being a literary genius and by the religious one due to his chosen subject matter, his populist novel was certainly a page-turner which had readers gripped from the outset. Combined with the addictiveness of the plot and the talent that has gathered to put it to screen (Ron Howard, Tom Hanks, Ian McKellen), it's disappointing that their efforts have resulted in a whole so much inferior to its parts.

Big fans of the book might appreciate screenwriter Akiva Goldsman's faithfulness to the source material but unfortunately this fidelity is so slavish that it just comes across as being too long-winded for the average audience. Given more strict editing, Brown's addictive book (nobody seems to take longer than a week to read it) could have made a truly enthralling thriller if handled correctly as opposed to the embarrassingly uncinematic experience that's been delivered.

Rather than making a film based on the book - keeping the story and feel but making it a separate entity - Ron Howard has made a movie that comes across as merely an illustration of the book. It simply fails to add anything, which is unfortunate since the thrills in Brown's Da Vinci Code come chiefly from the revelations that are made and the conspiracies that are suggested. Naturally, these don't come across as particularly shocking on the second journey through the story so the lack of anything new to hang on to is damning. That said, there are a clutch of thrilling moments, though some more so than others.

A flaw of the film which can equally be blamed on the book is the fact that the puzzle solving can be a little alienating to the reader/viewer. Since the puzzles are far more often than not grounded in history or symbology it's far more a case of watching the characters work out the solutions rather than solving it with them or being a step ahead of them. When looking at some paintings or other clues the film has a habit of illuminating the relevant sections of it which either comes across as helpful or condescending depending on your point of view. Unless it hints at some strange power of Langdon's that wasn't made clear in the novel.

Tom Hanks portrays Langdon faithfully enough, though this isn't necessarily a good thing - the straight-faced character is an ill-fitting movie hero and denies Hanks his usual charisma. Ian McKellen's performance is the most enjoyable by far, stealing the show as Leigh Teabing, but unfortunately it's an hour before he appears and then he doesn't remain to brighten up the screen for the duration.

Despite the undeniable talent and promising source material involved, The Da Vinci Code is something of a disappointment most likely to please fans of the book who want to see an almost word-for-word recreation of it. Others might find that watching the film feels longer than reading the book.

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