a critiQal film review The Da Vinci Code (2006)

Plot: When the curator of the Louvre is murdered and Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon (Hanks) is suspected, Langdon teams up with gifted cryptologist Sophie Neveu (Tautou) to find the true murderer - and stumble upon an even greater mystery involving The Priory Of Scion, an ultra-secretive sect charged with keeping one of the greatest secrets of all time.

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  • ..stick to the print version of this one - the film is sure to disappoint.

After hearing that a movie adaptation was being made about Dan Brown’s best-selling novel, I couldn’t wait until The Da Vinci Code hit theaters. Then I saw a preview, and was disappointed to see Tom Hanks had snagged the role of leading man Robert Langdon. Since he hasn’t done a very good job of acting since Joe Vs. The Volcano, I was rather skeptical if he could pull off the role in The Da Vinci Code.

Combine that with a bunch of bad reviews, and I was discouraged enough about the film to skip it in it’s opening weekend, opting for Kane’s horror film, See No Evil (2006). However, when week 5 of the Summer At The Movies ’06 came around, The Da Vinci Code had very little competition, with The Break-Up, starring Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston, the only new summer film out this week.

Since I wasn’t interested whatsoever in seeing the latest film from an off-screen couple (since I remember how badly Just Married (2003) was – and I didn’t even risk venturing to see Gigli) it seemed I was going to get a chance to see if Tom Hanks could impress me once again after all.

Tom Hanks is not believable as Robert Langdon in The Da Vinci Code. While he seems to have gotten the comedy persona down pat (even if it is getting stale), his dramatic acting is another story. Maybe it’s not his fault – his baby-like face, constantly pushed into the viewer’s field of vision, defies the audience to believe he’s anything but the comic relief of the film. So, when no jokes are forthcoming, the audience is a bit baffled, and tends to drift away from the film. Thankfully, a few dramatic pieces – including Saving Private Ryan (1998), give him smaller roles that don’t allow him much face-time, instead focusing on an entire group of individuals (most of whom don’t have the same baby-face look to them).

While his unbelievability can be attributed to his baby-like looks for most films, The Da Vinci Code is not one of those films. His acting is incredibly stilted, and the viewer never catches even a glimpse of passion for the role he plays anytime during the film. It’s obvious he doesn’t have a clue as to his characters motives, and tends to flip-flop with great regularity throughout the film. Sadly, Hanks’ atrocious performance isn’t the only downfall of this film.

Ian McKellen, magnificent recently as Magneto in X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), is not as impressive here. While his dialogue flows much smoother, he tends to be less of an on-screen presence in this film, made so much more noticeable after his ability to capture the screen in X-Men: The Last Stand (2006).

Audrey Tautou doesn’t live up to what seems to be her full potential either. While the viewer will get occasional glimpses of a much better performance, she doesn’t seem to give it her all most of The Da Vinci Code – possibly a by-product of working with the seemingly bored Hanks.

Paul Bettany seems to do the most to get into his role, and his scenes show the most amount of passion in the film. As usual, his performance very nearly steals the show.

The Da Vinci Code also falters thanks to long-time director Ron Howard, who seems to have directed the film without any sort of preconceived vision of how it would turn out. The lack of passion displayed by most of the actors carries over into Howard’s directing so much that it’s difficult to tell if the dispassionate acting wore off on the director, or if it was the other way around.

Probably trying to create a non-biased film is part of this, as – despite the press – Howard does his best not to side with either of the two opposing viewpoints in The Da Vinci Code. He even goes so far as adding in a few scenes where Langdon disputes the legitimacy of the origins of this great secret, in order to present a more balanced film.

In the novel, Dan Brown has clearly chosen a side, and that helps make the story that much more thrilling. Whether the reader agrees with the opinions of the characters is moot – knowing that they are standing by their beliefs is what keeps the reader interested. Who wants to read (or watch) a hero that doesn’t believe in his own cause? Ridiculous.

At a lengthy running time of almost 2½ hours, whether you believe the ideas set forth in The Da Vinci Code are legitimate or not is beside the point. By the time this film finally wraps up, you won’t care. With slow-moving scenes interspersed with action sequences, this film looks to be tossed together in record time, without care of how the film will turn out. Add in the dispassionate actors and the filmmaker desperately sanitizing the film to erase any message contained within, and you’ve got The Da Vinci Code in a nutshell.

My advice: stick to the print version of this one – The Da Vinci Code is sure to disappoint.

Lets just hope the filmmakers don’t screw things up this bad again for Angels & Demons (2009), a movie based on another, more exciting, Dan Brown novel about Robert Langdon that’s coming to a theater near you in the not-so-distant future.

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