The Da Vinci Code


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

The Da Vinci Code
"Ron Howard directs without flair, but with respect for the source material."

Forget the hype; forget the Dan Brown fan club; forget religion; forget Tom Hanks' hair. The Da Vinci Code is The Bourne Identity, par-boiled and wrapped in confusion.

It's another guy-and-gal-on-the-run scenario. They don't know what they are supposed to have done - killed four people, apparently - but are sensible enough not to stop and enquire. Instead of the full technological might of the CIA against them, it's the Vatican, whose influence, not to mention unscrupulous methods, is well known to the Agnostic Fellowship worldwide.

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Essentially, that's it.

Playing an American professor who has written a book on symbolism, Hanks seems completely lost. Audrey Tautou, as the granddaughter of the head of a secret Catholic order, is very good at looking puzzled in a frightened way. Ron Howard directs without flair, but with respect for the source material. His use of grainy, monochrome flashbacks, as a way of explaining the historical complexity of Christianity's power base, is ingenious (or CSI influenced), brushing the body of knowledge without embracing detail.

At the centre is the search for the Holy Grail and the question of Jesus' mortality. Was he a man, or the Son of God? Was he celibate, or having it off with Mary Magdalene? Looking objectively from a non-believer's perspective, his sex life seems irrelevant and yet if you take the resurrection literally and sign up to the paranormal version of events it does matter. There is much talk of "the bloodline," which the defenders of the faith want to extinguish permanently - thus the chase and the code and Jean Reno's Opus Dei French cop's high blood pressure.

The Catholic hoo-ha is an elaborate ruse to disguise a run-of-the-mill thriller. There are holes in the plot into which you might fall and hurt yourself. It's better not to question too much, or become entangled in the Machiavellian manoeuvrings - does Paul Bettany's cowled hitman have to be so mad? - rather than sit back and enjoy the polished production values.

The second half is transformed by an actor renowned for his gloomy portrayals of wizards, villains and the late John Profumo. To say that Ian McKellen steals the film is to state the flippin' obvious. His performance, as an eminently rich, highly intelligent, decidedly eccentric, semi-crippled academic, living in a French chateau, is so entertaining and wickedly teasing that it exposes the weakness of others. He is the joker in the pack and, by God, it needs one.

Reviewed on: 19 May 2006
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The Da Vinci Code packshot
Big screen adaptation of the bestselling thriller concerning one cult's obssession with the story of Christ.
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Chris ***

Director: Ron Howard

Writer: Akiva Goldsman, based on the novel by Dan Brown

Starring: Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellen, Alfred Molina, Jurgen Prochnow, Paul Bettany, Jean Reno

Year: 2006

Runtime: 149 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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