A Film Review By Jason L. King
| Starring: Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Paul Betany, Ian McKellan, Jean Reno
Directed By: Ron Howard
Rated:PG-13 for violent acts, mild language and thematic elements
Review Posted: May 18th 2006
In one of this year’s biggest releases Director Ron Howard and Tom Hanks set out to unscramble the secrets of the Da Vinci Code in this summer blockbuster, based on the controversial book that has taken the literary world by storm. The tale deals with a thousand year old conspiracy that dates back to the days of Christ, and a secret cover up so shocking that it could shake the very foundations of mankind.
Messing with religion is like walking on a tightrope. One small mistake and you can fall to near certain doom. Normally, when you are putting someone’s religious beliefs on a line though, there isn’t much of a safety net to catch you when you fall. However, this film walks that tightrope with near ease, keeping right in step. The story is full of controversy and conspiracy, and much to the dismay of the modern day church raising interesting inquiries about the gospels, the truth about Christ and Mary Magdalene and much, much more. I think though what most people fail to realize is that when the books Author, Dan Brown, set out to write the Da Vinci Code, his intent was not to disprove Jesus, but instead provide us with an exciting adventure with a group of eccentric history scholars. The film works in the same ways, Director Ron Howard doesn’t set out to tell us that our Religion is a sham, and it’s really a shame that millions of people are going to believe this is the case with out seeing it. Instead, the film is telling a fictional tale, a tale of suspense, intrigue, mystery and myth that keeps the audience in suspense for the film’s entire span.
Controversy aside, The Da Vinci Code is a very well made movie. Howard does a decent job of stringing together what is a very dense text into film form. Fans of the book would tell you that each page is filled full of historical legends and myth and trying to convey all that on screen is a tough thing to do. What Howard brings us is in the same spirit of last summers “National Treasure” a suspense tale that makes history fun. By the end of the Da Vinci Code you may want to do your own bit of research on the knights templar and the history of the Catholic Church, the Crusades and the life of Christ. What’s wrong with a film inspiring a bit of personal research? In a country where we are spoon fed answers by the people our Government, Celebrities and Pop Culture any film that can inspire an audience member to pick up a book and learn about something they would have never thought about before, that’s an amazing feat.
Tom Hanks has aged quite a bit since the old days of films like “Big”, “Joe Versus The Volcano” and “The Money Pit” (all cheesy yet fun 80’s Comedies) and has grown into the role of aging historian quite well. Hanks plays a very believable Robert Langdon; and does a wonderful job of leading us on our quest of finding the truth behind Da Vinci’s secrets. Hanks takes command of the screen every time he is on it, which once again reminds us that Tom Hanks is one of our generation’s most versatile actors. Sure, over the years Hanks has given us a slew of hits and misses with audiences, some of his films are loved by some and hated by others, but Hanks consistently continues to make “good” movies. The Da Vinci Code continues his streak of good fortune. Paired with Hanks in this Langdon adventure is “Amelie” star Audrey Tautou, as the young French cryptologist whose life is more tied up in the secrets of the Da Vinci code than she ever imagined. Tautou is overshadowed by Hanks and company, and while she fills the role nicely, she doesn’t give us anything that really makes her stand out. The Da Vinci Code isn’t going to be the film that will make her a household name, it’s just another film that is added to her ongoing cannon of entertaining cinema. Rising Star Paul Bettany does an outstanding job as the albino monk, Silas, who will stop at nothing to keep Da Vinci’s secret under wraps. Silas is a very important part of the books and I have to say I was a little apprehensive when I heard they gave the part to Bettany. However, with each film I see him in Bettany continues to amaze me. He’s a gifted actor who really shines in the Da Vinci Code. Despite being in a big blockbuster with Tom Hanks, Bettany holds his own, bringing to life some very critical scenes with a finesse only he could have done with such ease. Also joining the cast is Sir Ian McKellen, the grandfatherly looking man who name now days is almost sybiotically related to “big money films.” For those of you who can’t place a face with the name, McKellen is the man responsible for bringing to life Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, and Magneto is the X-Men series. McKellen brings to life the aging Grail Scholar, Leigh Teabing with great discernment and gives us yet another wonderful character on screen. While McKellen’s last years on screen have proven to be some of the most popular films of the last 5 years, McKellen should smile easily again, knowing that he provided us with another equally powerful performance in another huge money making machine. Bit parts were given to Jean Reno and Alfred Molina, two actors who definitely deserve to be recognized, yet are easily over shadowed by the star power they are competing with. The only actor I really felt the film was missing was Ian “Bilbo Baggins” Holm, who I personally would have thought to be a great addition to the cast as the aging Opus Dei Bishop role, but you can’t win them all eh?
Where, if at all, does the Da Vinci Code falter? Despite the wonderful performances and bringing to life a text that has been read cover to cover by more people than the Bible itself, Howard for unknown reasons changes things up at the end. Fans will be asking, why the strange change of events? What’s going on? The story line diverts into uncharted territory nearing the end of the film and puts an strange twist on Dan Brown’s critically acclaimed novel. While fans will be pointing out faults in their chairs, it should be noted that Howard’s adaptation doesn’t ruin the film, in fact it compliments the film just as well. The real question is why the change at all.
Howard also really fails to bring enough explanation to his script. Part of the joy of reading along is you get to discover with Robert Langdon the truth. In the movie adaptation they have to find ways of giving us so much info in such a short time, that the journey of self discovery is cut short, leading us as viewers only to trust Langdon’s judgment and amazing photographic memory as fact. It’s a big task that the makers of the film undertook, and they do a very good job of it, however those lazy people who refuse to read books will miss out on so much that it’s a shame.
Is the Da Vinci Code worth your buck? Is it worth the hype and the controversy? Worth the hype: yes. Worth the money: yes. Worth the Controversy: No. Millions of people are failing to mention that this film is a work of FICTION. it’s not going to change your beliefs. If you want this fictional work to disprove Christ, it won’t. It’s not going to change your entire belief system. This film is the religious “National Treasure.” It’s got mystery and intrigue mixed with history and bring to life a colorful cast of fictional characters. Fictional is the key word that so many people seem to have forgotten. The Da Vinci Code is a great story, and the word “story” should be noted as a key word in the phrase. Put your own beliefs aside and pick up the book- read it from cover to cover (it is such a fast read that even people who hate books can’t stop turning pages) and then head to the theaters to see the big screen adaptation. Howard and Hanks have brought together a tale that has sparked adults into reading again much like Harry Potter did for children. The films are a great compliment to a great story. Go check it out as a outstanding tribute to an already great story. This film has entertainment written all over it.