Let me get this straight. Jesus got hitched, had a kid and all of Western civilization conspired to cover it up?
Ron Howard’s adaptation of Dan Brown’s best seller plays like a bastard child of JFK and The Bourne Identity, only without the narrative drive of the latter. It’s mostly a series of inert, talky scenes strung together with convenient chase scenes that occur only when narrative requires them to move characters from one location to the next. Spew conspiracy theory, then be chased, then more conspiracy theory. Not even the chase scenes do much to excite, since this film lacks any real sense of jeopardy to the protagonists. The Da Vinci Code is a two-and-a-half hour film that feels even longer than Ben Hur.
Tom Hanks is reliable, as always, but there’s not much meat to his character. Robert Langdon is mostly a walking, talking puzzle-solving machine loaded with a Wikipedia’s worth of religious arcana. He never comes to life as human being with a real stake in the story, even when he has a gun to his head.
Audrey Tatou’s Sophie is certainly an attractive heroine, but she’s along mostly to play Scully to Langdon’s Mulder, the voice of skepticism until about ninety percent of the way through the film. Then she becomes of the object of the film’s twist ending, which is about as easy to see coming as the next sunrise.
Paul Bettany is almost unrecognizable as Silas, the albino, self-flagellating, homicidal monk, but he’s also almost unrecognizable as an interesting villain. He’s a hollow-eyed hitman in a robe. The best (and only) French action star in Hollywood, Jean Reno, is on hand as the obsessive detective without a convincing motivation.
Only Ian McKellan, as Sir Leigh, the Holy Grail expert, brings any kind of life to his scenes, but I never found his ultimate choice and fate in the story to be worth the effort it took to get there.
This movie is quite simply a mess, so much so that it’s hardly worth debating on theological grounds, something I’m not inclined to do anyway. It doesn’t, as some have claimed, completely trash the name of organizations like Opus Dei, the conservative Catholic order, but it doesn’t let them off the hook either. This isn’t deliberate ambiguity, just the result of an incomprehensible narrative. I’ve never read the book, so I can’t comment on its treatment of the subject, but the film never makes it clear one way or the other whether or not the villains were working on their own agenda. Frankly, you could replace Opus Dei with the Carolina Panthers and the movie wouldn’t make any more or less sense.
You could say that about most of this movie. It takes a lot of effort to make heads or tails of the central conspiracy, but nothing (and I mean nothing) about The Da Vinci Code makes you care enough to try that hard.