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Da Vinci Code: Ho Hum!

May 26, 2006 19:33 IST

A still from Da Vinci CodeLet me tell you a secret or three.

Jesus Christ married Mary Magdalene, whose sarcophagus is buried under the crystal pyramid at the Louvre. Their progeny, born after Jesus' was crucified, was spirited away to keep the lineage alive.

A fanatical Church sect called the Opus Dei is ready to kill to ensure that this story remains untold. Another protects the lineage.

Jesus' surviving descendant is a woman. She is the Holy Grail.

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There. Someday, you will thank me for not letting you waste two hours and thirty-three minutes of your time.

Make that two hours and thirty-five minutes, if you include the disclaimer at the beginning and the end of the movie, which stresses, rather needlessly, that any references to people and history are purely coincidental.

Take a murder at the Louvre, an American professor of symbolism who can crack any and every anagram or code thrown at him, (Tom Hanks, incapable of hiding his boredom) and a young woman cryptologist (Audrey Tautou, who cannot decide whether to retain her accent -- French of English -- and finally decides to use both, in vain.).

A still from Da Vinci CodeThrow in a crusading French policeman, a self-flagellating psychopath representing the Opus Dei, and a Grail expert (a grim Jean Reno, a truly chilling Paul Bettany and an exuberant Ian McKellen, who struggle valiantly to keep the movie moving).

Add a large dash of arcane codes and religious codex. Some well-filmed shots of medieval castles and Paris by night.

Garnish with suggestions that Leonardo Da Vinci, Sir Isaac Newton, Victor Hugo, Botticelli, and even former French President Francois Mitterrand, were members of the ancient secret society, charged with protecting the Grail, which as I've just revealed earlier, is not a chalice, but Jesus' descendant.

Stir well.

Call it by any other name, but the predominant flavour is still turkey.

I guess that's because director Ron Howard and writer Akiva Goldsman (the same duo gave us Cinderella Man and A Beautiful Mind) tried to be too true to the original Dan Brown sellout.

For instance, it is supremely difficult to picturise the thought processes of people, particularly those able to crack codes in their sleep. Howard and Goldsman give it their best shot, but blurred images of planets circling in a medieval time is the best they can come up with.

The complex arguments in the book can be read, and re-read if needed. On screen, Hanks mouths them without emotion. The 'I'd rather be elsewhere' look permeates his presence throughout the movie.

On the positive side, once you have willingly suspended your disbelief, there are moments of redemption.

A still from Da Vinci CodePaul Bettany plays the manic monk with passion and conviction, though the horror-movie makeup sits a tad to heavy on his face.

Jean Reno, who plays the frustrated French policeman being used by the Opus Dei, could certainly give some lessons in acting to Hanks and Tautou.

Grail expert Ian McKellen brings some energy to the screen, though he too at times seems over the top, particularly when he tries to be vehement.

The pace, which flags only when the main characters argue over religious arcana or attempt to emote, is blistering enough. There are enough twists and turns, plots and subplots, if you care to follow them. Or can, particularly if you haven't read the book.

The photography too is racy, and at times beyond average.

Did I enjoy the movie?

Let me put it this way: If you must, read the book.

But if you happen to be a Tom Hanks fan, don't see this movie.

Footnote: This is what people are getting so het up over?

Rediff Rating:

Ramananda Sengupta