The Movie Buffer

Saturday, May 20, 2006

The DaVinci Code


lSmla eSplosri eInisd


You’ve heard almost every major film critic rip this movie a new one because of its poor pacing and the haphazard way it seems to have been put together but you would be wrong to miss this one if you are a fan of the murder-mystery genre. The critics are right in saying that the movie pace needs some extra editing but the fact remains that the characters need time to find clues, decipher the code and ultimately solve the riddle, which could not have been done if the pace had remained as quick as it was going in the beginning. Finally, when the Catholic Church gets portrayed in movie for you’d better believe there are going to be boycotts and controversy, it happened to Passion of Christ, Prince of Egypt and even Dogma. Priests, vicars and bishops have made the media blitz saying that the fictional book is indeed an utter fabrication and a blasphemous piece of garbage.

The DaVinci Code deals with a secret society, Opus Dei, and an even more secret society, The Priory of Sion, duking it out to cover up and destroy any evidence to or protect one of the most deeply held conspiracies known to the Catholic Church. Tom Hanks plays Robert Langdon, an American symbologist, who on a trip to France gets tangled in this web of intrigue when the elderly curator of the Louvre implicates him in a murder investigation. Audrey Tautou (Amelie) plays a plucky young police cryptographer, Sophie Neveu, who springs Hanks from custody and they embark on the quest to break the code. Jean Reno (The Pink Panther, Ronin) who plays the chief of police, and Paul Bettany (Firewall, A Beautiful Mind) who plays the abino monk, Silas, are the principle antagonists of the story: Reno received a tip that Hanks was involved with the murder and is attempting to hunt him down; Bettany is sent on a quest supposedly passed down by the Lord through the Opus Dei to assassinate anyone that has any information about the DaVinci Code. Along the way, Ian McKellen’s character Leigh Teabing, comes into prominence as Hanks’ friend and Christian history expert. After a few chases with the police, a fight with Silas and some verbose explanations of the Knights Templar and other such church secrets, the code is deciphered and Hanks must figure out what to do with this information.

Ron Howard was the director of this film and he could have used a little more time and a little more finesse when it came to the editing of this film. The blurry shots during the chase scenes took away from the chase. Throughout the film the cuts where very abrupt and made the movie feel rushed. The other elements of the film of this film were brilliant: The locations where beautiful, the shots were well composed and music fit perfectly together.

Hanks plays his character well but he was not the sort of guy I had imagined Robert Langdon. Reading the book, Langdon comes across as more of a book-worm type guy wearing a bad tweed suit. Langdon, in the movie and the book alike, solves every puzzle that is put before him. In the film the use computer generated visual representations of his mental process of deciphering the codes which was an excellent touch. Hanks rarely does a bad job in any of his movies an he doesn’t disappoint in this one.

Audrey Tautou’s performance as Sophie is filled with confidence and flair but lacks in credibility. She’s supposed to be a genius code breaker, but she seems perpetually lost in the mathematical clues. When McKellan is explaining the history of the Last Supper, she keeps chiming in with lines like “I don’t understand”, “You lost me” and “slow down”, which slows down the exposition even more. Some of her dialogue seems forced or just something the character would never say. Despite these flaws, she performed well.

These two are played up to have some connection but in the end this storyline ends flat. When the story is constructed in this fashion, you can assure viewer disappointment.

For Reno this part must feel familiar, a police officer with his own agenda hunting down a fugitive. We’ve seen him play this part many times before and he knows exactly what to do and say to make his character a likeable every-man.

Bettany seems like the perfect man to play the albino monk but his performance is lacking in most respects. For a serious drama, his character is too “cartoony” to be frightening. He should have played this character in one of two ways: the first way is to play him with an unflinching belief in what he is doing is right, the violence and lies all lead to a better world. The other way would be to have him wrestle with the fact that the deeds that he is doing are against the teachings of the Bible and he needs to come to terms that he cannot be saved but he is sacrificing himself for the greater good. Bettany’s character has the most character flaws. The viewer is lead to believe that he wear a cilice, a barbed metal band worn around the thigh for a few hours to suffer like Christ suffered, all the time and after every sin he switches which leg he wears it on. In the first scene, it is shown that this apparatus attached to his leg severely restricts his movement, he limps and is only able to walk at a slow pace. As the movie progresses, Silas forgets which leg the cilice is on, he doesn’t limp at all and he runs, jumps and kicks people.

In all this movie deserves a 6/10 or three out of five stars because the puzzles were interesting and the acting was decent. The movie losses marks for the strange pacing, the long run time at 2 and ½ hours and the directing. Having read the book and not having been utterly entranced by it, I was not too anxious to see this movie. I was hoping that the visual medium was going to jazz it up a bit and it did but there were just as many flaws as there were benefits. It’s an entertaining movie but it won’t have you talking about it after you leave the theatre.


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