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The Da Vinci Code

Film Three Stars

It's going to be difficult for any screen version of a book to capture the audience as the story did when it was first read, and it's particularly difficult in a story such as Da Vinci Code. For the Code is a thriller which mingles facts with well trodden theories and leaves little room for reinterpretation in an attempt to give the audience a new and exciting path or a new surprise conclusion.

So what is left? To tackle the story head on and be as faithful as possible, bringing the book to life and catering to those who have already read it, yet retaining an accessibility for the new audience.

Code does that very thing, and it does it well. In fact in my eyes it does it better than the book did.

DaVinciCode_Poster.jpgMany thanks to the staff at Edinburgh Vue Ocean Terminal cinema who helped out with this review. Friendly and eager to help, as well as giving a great cinema experience. Now, to the film.

The press reviews of this film since the Cannes premiere have been exceedingly poor, indeed the first seven reviews shown at Rotten Tomatoes were amounting to a disastrous zero percent. Whatever those critics who rated it so poorly were thinking I just don't know. Whether they were caught in the hype and the anti-film feeling I cannot tell, suffice to say this is not the bad movie they make out.

Flaws it has, but these have much to do with the original source material and the complex historical subject matter as with anything else.

So to the movie itself. I do agree that it is heavy with exposition, which is one of the main complaints, but with this subject matter you cannot expect the audience to know all the backstory. It is unfair to expect them to be versed in such things as the Priory de Sion, Knights Templar and the history of the Church, and for these reasons strong explanations are required.

Actually, these moments aren't too obtrusive in the tale and I actually welcomed them more than moments of action. Remember this isn't a dialogue light tale such as Poseidon, this is a story delving into history. It's not a swashbuckling Indiana Jones, but a more realistic historical investigation.

Once you realise these things then the film is actually quite enjoyable. The tension and pace are very well handled in comparison to the book, and the new chapter - new challenge - next level idea is discarded. There was something else I had issue with in the book, that was the overly childish hand holding narrative throughout. I had feared that this would also be apparent in the film, but luckily it only hit three times.

One example is when Langdon solves the first riddle in the Louvre. Here he writes the answer on his pad, the audience can quite clearly see him writing this. Then he finishes and turns the pad to Neveu and the camera, once again we can read it all. Yet there is this apparent need to have Langdon read it aloud once again. Thank you, but if we have to be intelligent enough to follow the historical aspect of the story then we can easily follow this simple plot device.

The story is, of course, identical to the book. It remains truly faithful, and unfortunately that does take away some of the tension and surprise. If you have already read the book then you know what is going to happen step by step, and you find yourself looking for the differences. Yet there aren't too many and those that are tend to be for pace and length reasons. However, it still does a good job of providing tension, surprise and delivering a thriller to the audience.

Ron Howard does a very good job with the historical explanations and problem solving scenes. Using a style very similar to A Beautiful Mind he lets the riddles reveal themselves before your eyes, and for the historical explanations the images take you back in time in quite a dreamlike style. One of the best examples of this style is outside Westminster Abbey, as the characters race towards the entrance Langdon explains the past and the two worlds merge together onscreen. like ghosts from the past.

The weight and importance of some of the historical moments also make their way onscreen well. When the Knights kneel before the tomb and Teabing explains the significance of that moment you do feel slightly humbled and in awe of what that would have meant to them. It's a feeling that grows throughout the scenes of his explanation.

The music sits well with the movie and helps build these moments of reverence. The lighting is quite understated, considering some of the restrictive locations that they had to film in it's a surprise that some of the scenes look so good. Through the Louvre, Rosslyn Chapel, the many Churches, it remains dark and quite mystical.

Tom Hanks has been accused of being wooden and lifeless in this role and I disagree with that. His performances to date have always been typical Hanks and that usually means they have a nervous energy to them. Here he's restrained, controlled and he's always inquisitive and questioning rather than being decisive, overly emotional and open. I would argue that he's giving a more realistic and faithful performance for the character of Langdon. After reading the book and being shocked at the choice of actor, I'm now pleasantly surprised and agree with Howard's choice.

Ian McKellen is perfect for this role and seems to enjoy it giving a delicious performance from beginning to end. His early scenes of explanation are very enjoyable and he plays the traditional Englishman very well, after all you can imagine that this is the very person he actually is. His quips and one liners seem part of his natural character and the brief debate between he and Langdon seems to be so natural. I really did enjoy watching this gentleman on screen, as I always do.

Audrey Tautou gives a good performance despite being sandwiched between the two heavyweight actors, and Jean Reno has a strong moment of restrained emotion when he discusses his failure with his fellow policeman. Another moment of acting that you can almost feel.

Aside McKellen, Paul Bettany has the best role in the movie and portrays it very well. My body tensed and flinched at the scenes of flagellation, and his constant pain and torment is quite tangible. I have to say though that the scene where he attacks Langdon was quite ruined by his appearance on the Jonathon Ross show the previous evening. There he discussed the scene and how, during the attack, Hanks farted. When I saw the scene I almost burst out laughing thinking of that moment.

Overall, farting aside, the film is a good thriller. I think the main reason it is receiving such negativity is that the book has been so widely read there's nothing new to expect from the film and the tension and surprises are somewhat weakened. However if you can put that to the side and watch it afresh then it is an enjoyable film which is well paced and provides some intelligent thoughts with some entertaining performances. I suspect that viewed in a few years, when the book phenomenon has passed us by, this film will gain in strength.


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Comments

Finally!

My thoughts.

To me at least, what worked in the book, didnt quite work in the film. I have always said the book was not a brilliant piece of work, and was written with the intention of bringing it into film with all the ingredients that will just make it a box-office success- mystery, action, adventure - now I am not sure about that either. I just found it really slow, when reading it gave me the opposite experience, I just cant wait to turn to the next page. I did enjoy the going back in time scenes that you have pointed out and some of the code-cracking reminded me of "A Beautiful Mind." I am still torn as to what to feel for this film, I havent read the book since 2003 so I dont know if my reaction would be different had I read it just before seeing the film, or does it really matter.

I think for those who have not read it, and they decide to watch the film anyway, it will be such a tedious task.

I just saw it this morning, and I liked it. It has its faults yes, its a bit long, and moves a bit slow at times, but all in all it was pretty good. Not the best film I've ever seen, but far from the wreck the major reviews make it out to be. I should say too I have read the book, and I saw it with a friend who has not read the book, and he liked it very much too.

Check the weekend's box-office stats for Da Vinci Code.

http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=davincicode.htm

One of the most boring and pedestrian films i have ever seen.

how stupid do they think the person watching the film is? do they have to explain AND then show us what or how something was achieved.

it was like being at school again and my english teacher was reading bits of a book to the class, then he would explain.

boring!!!

Ah Rich - wink wink - I see that you have been gotten to by the powerful Dan Brown secret organisation that is looking to refute the majority of nagative reviews by otherwise sane critics...
;-)

Honestly I just don't think it is as bad as everyone makes out. What does make the experience poor is every having read the book beforehand.

I think that you are right about that Rich, having read it beforehand, knowing exactly what will happen made me feel as if "well then, what else is there to see?" But on the merits of how the film was made like the going back in time thing was quite good IMO.

Guys,

why should we base the film on whether we have seen the book? do they need to release one film for people who have read the book and one for people who haven't ok, maybe a little strong.

but i think they aimed it at the lowest possible denominator, i.e. me. and it was still boring.

the book wasn't that complicated, so making a film that explained just about everything about it makes for a boring film.

not a bad film, just a boring one. didn't get my £4.50 worth of entertainment, more like like a £2.21

I dont think it was a bad film either, just rather slow to my liking.

The point is Pablo if they recreate the book exactly and you've already read the book then there are no surprises. To quote Radiohead.

Hence there's no tension, no twist, it won't work because you know every step.

That's not to say you won't appreciate what it is. I watched Sixth Sense for the first time already knowning beforehand the ending. I still loved it.

Rich,

i agree that i had read the book and new the twists. but for an adventure/thriller i only jumped once. and i scare really easily.

the film(and the book) feels like its been written to accomodate advert breaks or see the second half tomorrow.

i.e. i think its a good two part tv series but a mediocre film

I've been thinking about that too Pablo, there was just way too much information to cram in a 2 1/2 hour film. As per your suggestion, perhaps not a tv series that will run for a whole season, but say a two-part tv movie, like what they did to Pride and Prejudice years before.

The movie was ok. The book was muhc better, though.

The movie and book are great stories, and magnificent works of FICTION. A TV series or anything of that nature isn't needed. If people want to know more about the story they could read the book. If they wished to know the true history, and seperate the massive amount of fiction intertwined into the story, from the truth; then they could open a book seperating the two, take a gander on many internet sites dispelling this old rumor that has no ancient documentation, or simply watch the History Channel specials.

Good Fiction, though.

Hi John, the reason that maybe doing DVC as a series would be much better is that because it was too long and drawn out as a movie, at least for some of us. If it was made into a tv-movie which had 2 parts, then you can understand why it has to be long. Thank you for highlighting that it is a work of fiction. And welcome to the Filmstalker!

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