Da Vinci Code, The (2006)
Release Date: May 19th, 2006 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Ron Howard Actors: Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellen, Jean Reno, Paul Bettany, Alfred Molina, Jurgen Prochnow, Etienne Chicot
ouvre curator Jacques Sauniere (Jean-Pierre Marielle) is discovered murdered in the famous museum, with several desperate clues left for Dr. Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), a renowned symbology expert. Covered in markings scrawled in his own blood, Sauniere has, in his dying moments, provided extremely camouflaged code to help Langdon and French cryptology division agent Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou) uncover the “dark con of man” – a myth that spans some 2000 years. But with Langdon as the prime suspect for the curator’s murder, his efforts to solve the mystery are curbed by tracking devices, the French and London police, unreliable allies, and a murderous albino.
According to legend, the Priory of Sion is a cloak-and-dagger society assigned to guard a devastating secret about Jesus Christ and the origins of Christianity. Their opposition is a fiendish, cult-like faction of the Catholic Church, known as Opus Dei, which relentlessly seeks out the artifacts of proof that the Sion protects, stopping at nothing to destroy them to forever bury harmful truths. It may all be speculation, centering on the famed paintings of Leonardo Da Vinci, but Langdon and Neveu are dragged into a world of dangerous people who think this stuff is real – resulting in a life-threatening pursuit for the answers before the mysterious “Teacher” and a killer monk catch up to them. The legends and lore are amusing bases for a morbid mystery thriller, but the copious references to cryptic organizations and complicated riddles are a lot to sort out. In many ways, the setup would work better in a video game (like “Tomb Raider”), wherein the player could more engagingly participate with the puzzles and the detective work.
But for its existence here in the filmic medium, “The Da Vinci Code” introduces audiences to one of the more memorable evildoers of late: Silas the monk (Paul Bettany). He’s a psychologically tortured soul who believes he’s an angel sent to help the ruthless Bishop Manuel Aringarosa (Alfred Molina), a man also at the heart of the conspiracy. Practicing self-flagellation, the donning of a cilice, and bloodthirsty violence against nuns, Silas is nastily defined through his actions; but his pasty skin, demonic eyes, and tendency to jump out at unexpected moments like a horror movie serial killer also add to the disturbing, lasting impression he generates.
The aggregation of religious implications and theories, presented in an electrifying treasure hunt brimming with keys, symbols, hiding spots, a cryptex, and red herrings, is nothing short of fascinating – whether they’re convincing or contrary to the viewer’s beliefs. While generous amounts of time are spent on flashbacks, explanations of religious ideologies (old wives’ tales and parlor tricks, Langdon would insist), the major focus is on tracking, sleuthing, and getting caught up in adventure. Like “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” mixed with “National Treasure” and a prevailingly ecclesiastical motif (not to be confused with purely anti-Catholic themes), “The Da Vinci Code” is foremost moviegoing entertainment – and only secondarily a condemnation of religious fanaticism. Despite its wildly controversial (or flimsy) final reveal (a divisive conclusion if ever there was one), the picture is sharply paced (for a two-and-a-half-hour feature), expertly acted, and surprisingly intense (thanks to an abundance of chase sequences and terrifying villains).
– Mike Massie