The Da Vinci Code is a 2006 mystery thriller film directed by Ron Howard and stars Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellan, and Jean Reno. The film is based on the best-selling 2003 novel by Dan Brown.
The movie was highly controversial (as was the book), receiving harsh criticism from the Roman Catholic Church, with many members encouraging others to boycott the film.
Tom Hanks plays Robert Langdon, a Harvard professor who teaches religious iconography and symbology. He becomes the primary suspect in the murder of Jacques Sauniere, whose body contains a strange cipher. Langdon escapes custody with the help of police cryptologist Sophie Neveu (Tautou), and the two become involved in a mysterious quest for the Holy Grail. Langdon and Neveu are also being pursued by French police captain Bezu Fache (Reno). The two later meet with Sir Leigh Teabing (McKellan), Langdon's long-time friend who explains to them the "truth" behind the Holy Grail.
It's one thing for a work of literature or film to parody and/or create satire of politics, the government, or religion. Monty Python's Life of Brian is a great example of religious satire which also happened to draw criticism from several religious groups. The issue with the Da Vinci Code is that it fails to use its material to provide a convincing commentary or argument, whether it'd be on Catholicism or religion in general. The film, instead, has the audacity to take several details that are quite central and vital to the Catholic faith, and spin them in a fictitious way that really adds up to a whole lot of nothing.
The Da Vinci Code claims that Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene were a married couple who produced a daughter named Sara. The film also claims that the Holy Grail is not a cup, but is actually Mary Magdalene herself. Anyone with at least decent knowledge of the Catholic faith knows neither of these statements are true. The next question someone might ask is, "What's the point?" Are these alterations to what Catholics believe just supposed to be a gimmick for creating a mystery thriller? Seven (1995) uses the seven deadly sins, also found in Catholicism, as a gimmick without any major alterations, and that resulted in a tense and exciting thriller.
- The pacing. It seems strange of me to compliment the pacing of a film that is regarded as dull and bloated with a nearly two and a half hour run time. Surprisingly though, the film does a commendable job of keeping things moving, not letting itself get too bogged down in one particular scene. Could some scenes have been cut out during editing? Sure. There is a minor twist midway through that really contributes nothing to the film overall, and there are several scenes of one of the villains whipping himself and also assaulting a nun, which provide little more than petty character development.
Still, Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou traverse their quest at a reasonable pace, and brief, but necessary moments of excitement are meshed in.
- Hans Zimmer's soundtrack. Mr. Zimmer brings his A-game, no matter the film. The haunting sounds of the opening theme grab your attention right away, and the music doesn't miss a beat, literally and figuratively.
- The uneven script/writing. Despite the pacing, Akiva Goldsman's script is almost all exposition. About 85 percent of Ian McKellan's dialogue is explaining theories and historical facts. Hanks and Tautou spend most of their time insisting on being as inquisitive as possible. Once one idea is understood and enough questions are answered, a new one springs up to take its place, and we have to get through another round of questions before we can move on. Everything may be easier to follow, but as a result, the writing squeezes out room for showing and expressing. How different would the Catholic faith be if Jesus, while being crucified, strictly explained or flat out say he came to die for our sins?
It may be highly controversial, but The Da Vinci Code does have some redeeming qualities as a mildly pleasing mystery thriller. Several of its key plot points are inaccurate and the script is one of almost pure exposition, but the pacing is reasonable enough that the film won't feel quite as long as its run time indicates. Tom Hanks has plenty of other, more acclaimed films to his name, but after you may view all those other said films, this is one that is eventually worth a look.
Recommend? Yes, but don't go out of your way to see it.
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