The Da Vinci Code directed by Ron Howard, w/ Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou and Ian McKellen. 149 minutes. A Columbia release. For venues and times, see Movies, page 113. Rating: NN Rating: NN
Cannes – To steal a phrase from Joe Bob Briggs, The Da Vinci Code, which premiered here last night at the big festival, has a lot of plot getting in the way of the story.
Tom Hanks plays Robert Langdon, a Harvard professor who, while visiting Paris, is implicated in the murder of the boss of the Louvre, who was the leader of a secret society.
The victim was actually murdered by an albino monk working for an ultra-conservative group inside the Catholic Church that is trying to prevent the revelation of the Holy Grail, which is really..
Along the way, Hanks hooks up with Audrey Tautou’s police cryptologist and Ian McKellen’s gleeful historian, while Jean Reno plays a police inspector fuming in the background and up to no good at all. And that doesn’t really begin to describe the plot.
It’s an extremely literary thriller, and not just because it’s an adaptation of Dan Brown’s phenomenally successful novel, which is obviously not unadaptable. Director Ron Howard and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman have done a rather more faithful job than they did on A Beautiful Mind.
The novel itself stops repeatedly to cram huge chunks of historical exposition down our throats, which is fine in a book, and Brown’s better at it than, say, Tom Clancy. But it’s different in the movie, where they keep interrupting car chases to explain the secret history of the Catholic Church.
That makes The Da Vinci Code literary in the worst way: it’s thick, overstuffed and slowed to a crawl by people stopping dead to expound.
The problem with adapting something so complicated is that, despite Howard’s best efforts and a lively cast (Look! It’s Jürgen Prochnow as a Swiss banker!), it amounts to two and a half hours of people sorting through anagrams and working out arcane riddles while fleeing the authorities, which simply works better on the page than on the screen.
It might have worked as a miniseries. Indeed, the whole thing’s kind of TVish, and it looks like Howard spends his off time watching CSI reruns. Check the sudden graininess and over-lighting in the flashback sequences (half the characters get them) and that clinical “what happens if you break the cryptex?” bit is straight out of CSI’s catalogue of “what happens when a bullet hits the spleen” stuff.
I read the novel a couple of years ago, thought it was fun, read it again and thought it was still fun for a junk thriller with cardboard characters.
It’s quick and clever and doesn’t let you think too long about its logic problems before bringing on a killer monk or showing us dark doings in secret places.
As to the religious controversies, the Catholic Church’s reputation has survived the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Reformation and pedophilia scandals. I’m sure it will survive The Da Vinci Code.
Jesus, some people are just so sensitive.