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The Da Vinci Code (2006)
Director: Ron Howard

review by Debbie Moon

American professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks, The Terminal) is lecturing in Paris when the police ask him to advise on the case of a curator found dead in The Louvre. The dead man has left mysterious clues written in his own blood - and when police cryptologist Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou, Amélie) arrives and warns Langdon that he is the prime suspect for the killing, the two of them end up on the run, pursued by an albino monk, a villainous bishop, and the French police. The dead man was the last survivor of a society that has been concealing a secret that could shake the church to its very foundations, and only by following a cryptic trail to that secret can either of them hope to survive...

Controversy aside, Dan Brown's worldwide bestseller is essentially a mediocre conspiracy thriller, the sort of thing you buy at the airport to lull your brain into holiday mode. Ron Howard's film version is a perfect equivalent to the airport novel: competent, mechanical, and just slightly more interesting than staring out of the window.

Akiva Goldsman's overlong screenplay simply transfers large chunks of the novel to the screen, miring us in long, static conversations expounding Brown's theories. Hanks ploughs through codes and puzzles with a permanently distracted expression, as if he doesn't understand what he's talking about either, and despite her alleged skills as a cryptologist, Tautou's role is principally to look on admiringly. The impressive locations seem under-used, the action is brief and repetitive, and even Paul Bettany's mad monk never feels like much of a threat.

The movie does improve considerably when Ian McKellen makes his appearance, as eccentric Grail scholar Leigh Teabing. He, at least, seems to appreciate the essential silliness of the story, and delivers an archly over-the-top performance that can best be described as a ripe piece of cheese. However, that's exactly what the movie needs, and it's hard not feel that the action is over when justice finally catches up with him.

It's certainly faithful to the book, and fans will no doubt appreciate that, but it remains pedestrian and un-cinematic, an interesting historical theory floundering in a mediocre setting - a thriller that never thrills.
Da Vinci Code

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Related review:
DVD boxset -
Da Vinci Code Decoded


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