PG-13 for disturbing images, violence, some nudity, thematic material, brief drug references and sexual content.
May 19, 2006
Drama, Thriller, Adaptation
Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellen, Alfred Molina, Jurgen Prochnow
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
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The Da Vinci Code
By Nathaniel Bell
The Da Vinci Code, a stupefyingly tedious adaptation of Dan Brown’s bestselling novel, runs two and a half hours, but it feels rather like four. Sony Pictures has primed and preened it for Oscar-worthiness (or at the very least, Blockbuster-ness), but it will most likely go down in history as this year’s Holy Grail of overblown thrillers.
By now you’ve gotten wind of the plot. Professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks, in a brand new do), a world-renowned symbologist, is summoned to the Louvre to examine the body of a murdered museum curator who left behind a cryptic message before bleeding to death. Before you can say, “Mona Lisa,” he’s forced to take it on the lam with a French cop (Audrey Tautou), with whose help he manages to uncover a secret society dedicated to guarding an ancient secret “that will shake the very foundations of Christianity.”
This secret is hardly a secret anymore, unless you’ve been living in an empty tomb for the last several years. Needless to say it concerns a specious bit of gossip about the relationship between Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene that’s sparked an uncommon amount of controversy among contemporary scholars. As “evidence,” screenwriter Akiva Goldsman (staying true to the tenor of Brown’s book) pulls from the Gospel of Philip and the Gospel of Mary, Gnostic texts that have languished in obscurity ever since their rejection by the ancient church. Lucky for the filmmakers, the scenes in which Langdon confers with his friend, the elderly historian Sir Leigh Teabing (Ian McKellen), are so grating and offensive the film suddenly ceases to be boring.
The only bit of relief comes from a character so foolishly conceived and so spectacularly misguided he’s almost hip. I’m speaking of Silas, the deadly monk assassin (Paul Bettany). Looking fearsome in his pale skin and black cloak, he is wont to killing off nosy meddlers between bouts of flagellation (which director Ron Howard shoots with all the loving care of a film student doing a horror picture). Bettany plays Silas with such maniacal conviction he wouldn’t be out of place in a James Bond movie shouting lines like, “Give me the Lektor!”
And poor Tom Hanks. Based on the evidence of his performance as the terminally uncharismatic Prof. Langdon, it would seem that someone or something (another conspiracy, perhaps?) has replaced his body with that of a pod-person, and is now using it for some unholy purpose. Wearing a faintly glazed expression, he trudges through some of the dullest expository dialogue this side of National Treasure.
There have been innumerable heated discussions among Christian circles on the subject boycotting The Da Vinci Code. The raison d'être for this drastic measure is that the film is full of fallacious claims about Christ. That much is certain, but I’ve got another reason why audiences should steer clear of it—the film is hopelessly, incorrigibly dull. And it has depressingly little to do with Leonardo da Vinci.
Read more about The Da Vinci Code in our special
Nathaniel Bell is a film critic in Southern California. Review
used by permission.
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