Published on May 18th, 2006 | by Hans Fruck


The Da Vinci Code

Stop! If you’re one of the few people who doesn’t know the basic plot of The Da Vinci Code, detach your eyeballs from this review at once, as I’m about to spoil it for you.

In a nutshell (and I use the term advisedly), the film opens with the murder of a curator in the Louvre. The curator, however, is an enterprising and thoughtful man, and before he dies, leaves behind a sudoku and several acrostics for the reading pleasure of the local constabulary who will have to investigate this act of dastardly dastardliness.

Harvard professor and symbologist, Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) is called in to decode these puzzles. At the crime scene he meets Inspector Fache (Jean Reno) and policewoman Sophie Neveu (the very spank Audrey Tautou). No ordinary sudoku can withstand the mighty decrypting powers of Langdon. In short order, he and Sophie, who turns out to be the granddaughter of the curator, decipher the puzzles. Soon after, suspected of several murders, they flee Paris with the French police hot on their heels. The police, however, are the least of their troubles because they’re also being pursued by a robed, hooded, self-flagellating, albino monk hitman (of course). Predictably, the albino monk hitman is the henchman of a sinister Opus Dei clique called the Council of Shadows.

Langdon and Sophie, obviously, have been unwittingly dragged into an intra-church power struggle that dates back thousands of years. At stake are several of the church’s most sacred precepts, not to mention closely guarded secrets like the location of the Holy Grail and the, till now, little-known fact that Jesus had a penchant for expeditions deep into Mary Magdalene’s floodplain. To preserve the religious status quo, the Council of Shadows is dedicated to hunting down and destroying the Holy Grail and the last of Christ’s bloodline on Earth. (The very thought of them killing Father Christmas moved me to fist-shaking rage.)

Clocking in at an arse-numbing 149 minutes, The Da Vinci Code takes its silliness pretty seriously. Director Ron Howard doesn’t loiter unnecessarily, but the plot is so crammed with incident and indispensable rafts of exposition that he simply can’t jam it into a shorter package. In a gesture toward narrative economy, Howard reserves much of each character’s backstory for flashbacks. He also attempts to enliven some of the exposition by digitally superimposing historical scenes on Sophie and Langdon’s present-day helter-skeltering. While this gives the digital department something to do, it’s all a bit meh.

All in all, The Da Vinci Code ain’t dire, just long and lighter than air. Although competently filmed and acted, it’s worryingly short on thrills for a thriller and has the dubious distinction of seeming less plausible than Lord of the Rings. Still, let’s be thankful for small mercies: at least old, flabby Tom Hanks didn’t get busy with Audrey Tautou. (I was petrified she’d suffocate under one of his jowls.)

–Hans Fruck

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