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 The Da Vinci Code
 Critic's Rating
   [B]
 Date Posted
   4th June, 2006
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Cast: Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellen
Director: Ron Howard

The bigger the lie, the more people will believe it. That to me is the essence of the popularity of Dan Brown's ubiquitous book and in turn, Howard's adaptation of it.

Like good science fiction, where the fiction is so compelling that it overshadows the science, the historical myths of the 'Da Vinci Code' are so persuasively believable that when applying their own internal logic, they overshadow the history. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. It is a good thing because it allows those of us who have not read the book (those like myself, comprising a minority in this instance no doubt) to be fascinated by its reconstruction of people's pasts, prominent paintings, events, and even words. There is however another camp of people, those who have found the subject matter to be slanderous, even sacrilegious and have protested against the film, even while copies of the paperback upon which it is based sells in their back yards. It is strange, but, yes, we live in a world where folklore is believed and the truth often derided.

The movie version is good, if not great, but it might have worked even better (than it does) had it at its disposal the services of an ardent conspiracy theorist like Oliver Stone who also managed to approach the source material with the same whimsical sense of fun of say, Star Wars. Howard only manages to reach the limits set by National Treasure. Yet Howard's films, much like the man himself, are on the surface what they are underneath. They seldom have layers that require deconstruction from the viewer while still having a disarming, likeable quality about them. 'The Da Vinci Code' continues that trend; it has Tom Hanks and Andrey Tautou as its leads never have people more affable spent screen time together. They play one half respectively of a duo, one an American symbologist Robert Langdon, the other a French cryptographer Sophie Neveu, who stumble upon a murdered museum curator who has left them baffling clues about the famed Holy Grail and its secrets. The wildest of wild goose chase ensues, all of it unravelling over the course of less than 24 hours, taking place primarily between France and London. Langdon is falsely accused by a French policeman Captain Fache (Jean Reno) for the murder and also hunted by the albino Silas (Paul Bettany). Langdon and Neveu find help in the form of Sir Leigh Teabing (the impish Ian McKellen), a manic, zesty art collector who spews conspiracy theories like an eager infant reciting his rhymes.

The book has become a phenomenon most likely (I assume) because it probably ends with a feeling that an Earth shattering revelation has been let out of the bag, one that can change the course of our lives forever. The film ends with a revelation that feels like yet another movie secret. That is the difference between the world created using words in a book and the world brought to life using film mechanics and the film undoubtedly suffers because of it. But Despite its shortcomings, 'The Da Vinci Code' and its makers cannot be left to hang, for their creation is made in earnest and deserves to be seen, if not to establish all that it gets wrong, then to applaud at how hard it tries and partially succeeds. - Faizan Rashid

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