Review: The Da Vinci Code

As I'm sure you can already guess by now, Carol & I went to see The Da Vinci Code yesterday , a new film starring Tom Hanks, directed by Ron Howard, based on the book of the same name from Dan Brown. On balance, we enjoyed the film as a fast-paced thriller and I think that people who've enjoyed the book will like how things were envisioned and put together.

We had some preconceived notions of the film before we went into the theater, which is generally not a good thing. Often, preconception can drown out perfectly good explanations or retorts, leading to an inappropriately satisfying or unsatisfying experience. In this case, we entered the theater having both read the book (Carol more recently than I) and having seen the trailer a number of times. We were concerned with Tom Hanks as the professor, thinking that he didn't quite look the part in the previews and that somebody younger and nerdier might be more appropriate. We had also (as is generally against our custom) read parts of reviews for the film before seeing it--at least the headlines--and they weren't promising.

With all of that said, the experience was substantially better than I'd thought it would be. First, there were a couple of stand-out performances: Ian McKellen brought to life a character that I felt was truly the emotional center of the book. Sir Teabing's obsession (quest) for the Holy Grail is evident throughout his performance and is made clear not only through action, but emotion. Jean Reno, as Captain Fache, also taps into emotions that I felt were key to understanding his character, his faith, and his motivations. Tom Hanks was better than I expected in the role--he managed to pull it off, showing a kind of professorial dispassion that was akin to how I read the book, but which has landed him ill reviews in the press for this film.

Ron Howard's direction helped the film keep a moving pace (although Carol felt it slowed too much at least twice, and I'll admit to having checked my watch once--never a good sign for pacing) despite the need to deliver a lot of background information. In this particular area, some interesting techniques were used to provide views into the past and connect the characters to the two-thousand year history of the legends and the church.

As stated before, the film doesn't shy away from any of the major points of the book, thus it's not going to be very popular with anyone who disliked the book. The penultimate scene's interaction between Langdon and Neveu may be less critical than the one in the book (and also reveals a strangely different set of facts), but throughout the film many of the most controversial theories and ideas are put forth in the same manner as they were originally by Brown.

One additional caveat: there is some fairly realistic and frightening violence in parts of the film. The elements were certainly there in the book, but when portrayed graphically they have a stronger presence. I think that Howard effectively used allusion to make them more poignant without making them any harsher than necessary, but they could still be distrubing to some viewers.