The controversy swirling around the film version of Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code is based on religious issues. If you choose to read the novel or view the film and focus solely on the religious aspects and their history, then you will probably be disappointed or upset by the movie. However, if you choose to simply view this as a good, taut murder mystery unfolding against a backdrop of religious symbolism, you are in for a good, although somewhat long treat.
Director Ron Howard and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman take Brown’s novel that runs 489 pages in mass market paperback and translate it into 149 minutes of big screen running time starring Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellan, Jean Reno, Paul Bettany and Alfred Molina. Hanks is “Robert Langdon”, a symbologist who is in Paris to give a presentation on religious symbols and their interpretation when he finds himself summoned to the Lourve where curator “Jacques Sauniere” (Jean-Pierre Marelle) lies dead, a murder victim. Somehow, before dying, Sauniere has managed to use his own blood to draw symbols all over himself, as well as leave an encrypted message and some other clues. Maybe if he had tried to stop the bleeding he might have lived? In any event, Langdon arrives to find a detective, “Capt Fauche” (Reno), asking for his help in interpreting the messages written in Sauniere’s blood.
Moments later, another police officer, “Sophie Neveu” (Tautou) arrives, having ostensibly been dispatched by headquarters. Actually she is there to warn Langdon that he is in peril from Fauche and she helps him escape from the museum. The chase to solve the mystery of Sauniere’s murder as well as a religious riddle that has puzzled scholars since the time of Jesus, is on.
There are secrets within secrets to be uncovered, hidden artifacts to be found, codes to be broken and somehow, Langdon and Neveu manage to make it through to the home of a friend of Langdon’s, “Sir Leigh Teabing” (McKellan), who happens to be an expert on these religious symbols and riddles and as he is unaware of the pair’s status as fleeing felons, he is more than willing to assist.
Am I leaving out a good part of the story? Absolutely. That’s because there may be some people who actually haven’t read the novel (I hadn’t before seeing the film) and they should see it without having too much spoiled, so we’ll leave the relating of the film’s story and plot at this point. Again, it is in how you view things, it fails as a religious study, it succeeds as a murder mystery.
Tom Hanks is very good in a new type of role for him. I’m beginning to wonder if there is a role that he wouldn’t do well in. Ian McKellan is also enjoyable as the maniacally obsessed expert who will do almost anything to unlock the secrets of the past. The rest of the cast is adequate or better and director Ron Howard, while not at the top of his game, manages to deliver in a genre that is not his typical forte.
Take a trip to the theater and try to decipher The Da Vinci Code.