| The Red Right Hand
THE DA VINCI CODE
The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property stated, "America Needs Fatima is also developing e-protests to the film and expects thousands of email protests to come pouring in." I received an e-mail two weeks ago. I'll spare you the bulk but the general message was, "as a critic you should not see The Da Vinci Code, nor should you help spread the lies it preaches." I would hope that you all know me well enough by now. I would hope by reading that statement you conjured an image in your mind of a man, sitting at his computer, infuriated. I'm sorry, but no American Society tells me what to do. Rising to the challenge, I happily strolled down to the screening. As a man who has taste and refuses to simply follow everyone else, I haven't actually read The Da Vinci Code, cover-to-cover. I have leafed multiple pages (therefore multiple chapters) and come to the conclusion that the general public are just plain stupid. It's badly written and steals everything from Holy Bloody, Holy Grail (hence the court case in London).
An old man runs through the halls of the Louvre, chased by a cloaked figure. Wrenching a painting from the wall, a thin white chord detaches itself and a large security gate descends. The figure limps up to the gate and raises a gun. The camera cuts to a glass ceiling as the old man tells the assassin what he wants to hear. He thanks him, then squeezes the trigger, letting off a round into the old curator's stomach. This whole scene is inter-cut with our hero's introduction; Robert Langdon [Hanks], a Harvard Professor (this is movie-talk which means he's 'smart'), specialising in symbolism. He's in Paris for a lecture, enthralling students and possibly solving a few crimes, who knows? Following his talk, there's a short book signing. At no point does anyone make mention that last year (in Angels & Demons - another Dan Brown title) he was running around the Vatican, trying to prevent the assassination of cardinals/potential popes; a plot that seems extremely similar to The Da Vinci Code. A policeman approaches him and asks for his help with a murder that took place moments ago - there's no real reference to time throughout the course of the film, so it could easily be hours. Dropped outside the Louvre, Langdon meets with the head of the investigation, Captain Fache [Reno] who takes him down to the scene of the crime. In the time it's taken the curator to die he managed to leave a coded message in blood and UV pen - I say 'coded message' it's just an anagram. Enter Sophie Neveu [Tautou], French policewoman and (secretly) grand daughter of the murdered curator, Sauniere. Sophie discreetly lets Langdon know that Fache sees him as the prime suspect and has placed a tracking device about his person. In usual fashion, our two leads throw the police off the scent and proceed to investigate, I don't know why the French police would leave one uniformed guard behind to patrol the entire Louvre, but it's best not to ask these questions - please note that I will be asking this question again later, with regards to the English police. Following a few simple anagram puzzles, left by the curator, Sophie and Langdon set off on a quest to find the truth behind the Holy Grail. The themes and plot begin to unravel with extreme convenience and there seems to be little time for the audience to catch their breath before being whisked off to some new location, where one of the characters will choose to share something completely irrelevant, yet oddly helpful. On their trail is both the corrupt Bishop Aringarosa [Alfred Molina], the albino assassin, Silas [Bettany] and Captain Fache. Realising how deep Langdon has found himself, he turns to a friend of his, who just so happens to live close by, in Vilette and who just so happens to be the ultimate Grail enthusiast and a millionaire Lord, as well... which is handy. Enter Sir Leigh Teabing [McKellen] and a whole hoard of stereotypical English jokes - a few gems from Dan Brown and Akiva Goldsman (Academy Award Nominee for A Beautiful Mind and....er... Batman & Robin) - just incase you're unsure, I'm being sarcastic.
The whole film feels like an extremely wordy version of a straight-to-video, chase thriller. The sets and scenery are stunning, but then they should be as they're mostly CGI. Naturally, most catholic churches and cathedrals refused the crew's requests to film inside and the Louvre only granted permission, provided it was done at night. The acting is rigid and other than Paul Bettany, the characters have little depth; this isn't for lack of trying, constantly interjecting random bits of coincidental past events that help push the plot along for a few more minutes. As you leave the cinema, your initial reaction is one of extreme boredom and disappointment. A lot of fans of Dan Brown's work will state that the only people who are going to slate this movie are Christians and closed-minded people; this is far from the truth. I didn't like it because all Dan Brown did was take the main argument from Holy Blood, Holy Grail and add a tacky, under-developed story to it; anyone could do that. Imagine a simple science fiction film in which Einstein's theory of relativity (E=mc2) is taken to space; ie. take a simple theory and try to shove a story around it. If you don't know, the only real way to test Einstein's theory is to measure a blackhole from within. So, the premise is set; American astronauts on a routine mission are sucked into a blackhole and while there the Russians appear. The race is on! The only way to escape is to play a risky gamble, that contradicts everything that got them into space in the first place, all the laws of physics and most importantly Einstein's law. The captain decides and they execute their plan, leaving the Russians to die - followed by some cheap glib about communism. Everyone leaves the cinema and quietly mutters to themselves, "So, Einstein was wrong? Of course! That means I can jump off a building! Physics is abolished!" The point being, anyone who believes something just because a film says so must be pretty unsure of their faith in the first place. As for the argument and plausibility of Christ's bloodline, sure it's possible but there's no real evidence either way so it's not concrete - something the film doesn't exactly play on too much, which has also lead to the outrage in the church. People are always going to come up with notions and ideas about religion and spread them how they will, the problem here is that Dan Brown clearly printed 'Fact' at the start of the book. If he was going to do that, why not print 'fiction' as well? Still, what's done is done and Dan Brown has made a fortune and a lot of trouble out of the whole thing. As I'm writing this, certain countries are still debating whether or not to show the film in its entirety or at all. One thing is certain, this film is poorly constructed and it clearly shows, an unfortunate blemish upon many fine film-maker's (both cast and crew) Curriculum Vitae's.
19th May 2006
The Scene To Look Out For:
Having just landed in England, Langdon, Sophie and the captive Silas manage to sneak off the plane and into a car before the police arrive. Once thrown off the trail, the police not only let them all go but don't follow them, verify their story or escort/detain them at all. It's another way of saying the police here are stupid and don't do anything, in one instant taking the tip from the French police extremely seriously (deploying 6 armed police units) then dismissing it as a 'bad lead.' Do they trust the French or not? Typical Dan Brown writing take perfect cinematic form. It was slightly relieving to hear the audience sigh and notice a few rolling their eyes.
Silas is the only saving grace of the film, detailing a character outcast by his own family and found comfort in God and the church. The scenes of self-discipline and flagellation are fairly extreme but work well for the plot. I have to raise an eyebrow, though. What kind of successful assassin stands out as clearly as an albino and cripples himself by attaching a cilice to his leg and changing it back-and-forth, continually. Having said that, this is a man who believes, wholeheartedly, that he is doing God's work and Bettany conveys this with a tortured grace. Despite all this, it's still a $125,000,000 foul-up.
"As long as there has been The One True God, there has been killing in his name"
In A Few Words:
"Dreary, dull and down right nonsensical dumb-logic and coincidence fuel this perfect adaptation of a best-selling, mind-numbing piece of putridity. Definitely one to avoid!"