Da Vinci Code

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Movie Review by Dr Kuma

Starring: Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellan, Paul Bettany, Jean Reno
Director: Ron Howard

The biggest book in recent history now becomes the second biggest film in 2006 so far, but does the movie live up to the hype?

The publicity surrounding this film (court case and alleged blasphemy accusations from varied sources) obviously whetted the appetites of those who read the book (most UK commuters) but would the bad press ruin it for everyone?

So many questions and just like the novel itself, we aim to answer them, only we here at PHASE9 aim to make sure we research before we preach.

It would seem impossible to make a hash of a novel when the source material read like a screenplay in the first place, so lets get this out of the way. The film is not a disaster by any means, nor does it retain the “page turner” standing of the novel. Ron Howard has come very close to making a boring film for the multiplex crowds as his idea of a thriller will differ from their idea of a blockbuster. However I felt as though it was a return to the McGuffin style set pieces of a Hitchcock picture made in the late 50’s and early sixties and found the slower pace and build up of characters refreshing (don’t get me wrong though, Howard is no Hitchcock, but an accomplished director none-the-less).

The plot for those who have not read the book is as follows:
While in Paris lecturing, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks – miscast but still ever professionally reliable) is informed that the elderly curator of the Louvre has been murdered inside the museum. Near the body, police have found a baffling cipher. Solving the enigmatic riddle, Langdon is stunned to discover it leads to a trail of clues hidden in the works of Da Vinci. Langdon joins forces with a gifted French cryptologist, Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou – cast for looking the part rather than breathing life into it) and learns the late curator was not only Sophie’s grandfather but that he was also involved in the Priory of Sion – a secret society who have connections in high places. In a breathless race through Paris and London (both used in a picture postcard fashion just like in the days of HART TO HART TV episodes) Robert and Sophie must race against time and albino henchmen to discover the greatest goal of all – the location of the Holy Grail.

Sounds exiting but obviously it doesn’t explain the fact that this has all been done before in a wholly more entertaining and believable fashion with INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE! The first 10 or so minutes are great but by this time those who read the novel will see that a great deal of the opening build up which made the novel interesting, especially as regards Langdon himself, has been dropped, which is a shame in a film that tries to build characterizations. However, most of the casting of the other roles is spot on and the splendid actors rise to the occasion.

If you enjoyed the book then you shouldn’t be too disappointed by the film which sticks to Dan Brown’s source material very closely, bar a few additions to character flaws and motivations. This really isn’t the disaster people (or should I say critics) have made it out to be but seriously, don’t take it for anything more that the conspiracy theory it is meant to be. It really should raise eyebrows rather that questions, but isn’t that what a summer blockbuster is supposed to do?

Dr Kuma’s verdict: An old fashioned thriller whose script takes the form of a crossword puzzle for all to decipher – it’s down to you if you crack the code or simply crack up at the dialogue, especially the line “we need a library fast” spoken from the top of a London bus which has, at the time of writing, already entered Hollywood lore. Still, it’s never as dull as other critics have made out.

4 out of 6 stars