The Da Vinci Code (12A)

ANDREW CLARKE The Da Vinci Code is probably the most eagerly-awaited movie of the summer. Based on the mega-selling novel and with an all-star cast, there is an awful lot of expectation for the film to live up to.

ANDREW CLARKE

The Da Vinci Code is probably the most eagerly-awaited movie of the summer. Based on the mega-selling novel and with an all-star cast, there is an awful lot of expectation for the film to live up to.

The problem with any film based on a hugely-popular book is that everyone who has read it, has already cast the film in their heads.

The other problem most big screen versions of best-selling novels face is script adaptation. Films are not books - the art of screen storytelling is entirely different. In movies, action speaks louder than words and in The Da Vinci Code there are an awful lot of words.


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Dan Brown's best-seller is a thriller and a mystery novel, but it is largely an academic mystery with a lot of clues and historical research to be argued over and talked through - but that doesn't necessarily make for good cinema.

With all those reservations and potential problems aired, what is the film actually like? Is it any good?

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Well - it is extremely watchable, it's an enjoyable, very serviceable thriller but it's not brilliant. Its biggest problem is that the script is too respectful of the original novel.

At two-and-a-half hours, the film comes across as very talky and very long. This then places a great weight on the shoulders of the actors because it is up to them to keep the audience's attention.

Audrey Tautou delivers a stunningly good performance as Sophie Neveu - a seemingly fragile character but turns out to be a razor-sharp, resourceful individual, full of steely resolve.

By contrast, Tom Hanks seems rather weak and out of place as the hero Dr Langdon. He plays him as too much of a dry academic who is ill-at-ease away from his books and student lectures.

For those who don't know, The Da Vinci Code tells the story of a secret society - dating back to the time of the Crusades - who are charged with protecting the Holy Grail. The Grail is not a cup - it is a woman, the vessel of life, Mary Magdalene - the wife of Jesus Christ, a mere mortal who was later given divinity by the Roman Catholic church.

The secret society maintain that Mary was pregnant when Jesus was crucified and his bloodline still continues.

It is clear that Opus Dei, the ultra- conservative arm of the Roman Catholic church, has taken it upon itself to quash this school of thought and a fanatical brotherhood of bishops and cardinals have been operating a bloodthirsty campaign to locate the final resting place of the Holy Grail and to execute its guardians.

Paul Bettany plays the murderous albino monk Silas who is the killing arm of this religious order, but the question that lies at the heart of this thriller is who is the real bad guy?

Along the way there are a couple of good chases, some spectacular scenery and director Ron Howard comes up with some astounding time-travel style sequences - overlaying ghostly images of the past on top of present-day footage as Langdon and Sophie are walking into Westminster Abbey.

It should keep audiences entertained, but won't be on many people's end-of-year best film lists.

Good but not great.

 

 

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