The Da Vinci Code by Ron Howard is a page-by-page adaptation of the Dan Brown novel. After facing unprecedented protests in India, the movie finally released this week and has been garnering better reviews here than abroad, where it was unanimously panned.
Howard has retained the historical background to the events by chopping his scenes and pasting visions from the past, be it the bloody wars between Pagans and Catholics or the tale of Mary Magdalene. This gives the film a documentary feel and one cannot help thinking that Howard should have held tighter control on the narrative.
The sets are magnificent, part of which may be attributed to the film's shooting in scenic Paris. Yet despite the locale and the subject matter, Howard is not at home with the thriller genre. The sound effects are misplaced (which is unfortunate, considering the horrific effects church music can induce) and what could have been a spine-chilling movie is left being an experiment that tries to capture too many details at the cost of the film maker's craft. Howard would be well advised to stick to hero-against-the-world tales like A Beautiful Mind and Cinderella Man. Historical epics are just not his métier.
Ian McKellen who plays Leigh is his usual best; his delivery is pitch-perfect but the stunning volte-face his character pulls on the Langdon-Sophie team is lost on screen. But then again, that's more Howard's fault than his.
But the star of the movie is Paul Bettany who plays Silas. His faith unshakeable, Bettany breathes life into the anguish of a man who looks upon Jesus as a personal saviour out of a dishonourable past. Despite a villainous role, one feels a genuine sympathy for this man caught in the currents of church intrigue. A man willing to murder in the name of piety.
Another good performance from Tom Hanks, though a younger Robert Langdon might have added more punch to the character. Think Eric Bana or even the current James Bond, Daniel Craig. These are the people one hoped to see in the role. Hanks with his ageing visage and receding hairline does not really fit the bookishly sexy Langdon.
But Audrey Tautou shines as the halting, vulnerable Sophie, trying to grapple with the burden of a truth too much to bear. The lady still retains the innocent charm of an Amelie. The face, while belonging to an older person, instantly brings to mind that extremely lovable French girl looking for true love.
Overall, The Code might engage you only if you haven’t read the book already, as was the case with me. Otherwise, it's unlikely to contribute to a satisfying movie experience.