The DaVinci Code
Director: Ron Howard (Cinderella Man, A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13, Cocoon)
Writer: Dan Brown (novel)
Screenplay: Akiva Goldsman
Producers: John Calley, Brian Grazer
Starring: Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellan, Jean Reno, Paul Bettany, Alfred Molina,
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 149 min
read my spoiler disclaimer

     Writing a review for this film from a movie-goer's perspective may present to be a bit of trouble, as this is my first film review of which I've actually read the novel and completely loved it. But still, I've got to try...

      Ron Howard has given us such a plot driven film, there is little room for character development, believability or intense action sequences. You can tell, even if you haven't read the book, that this film is a mad race to try and fit everything that is in the text into two hours. He fails by extending the film to 2 1/2 hours, but succeeds in cramming a lot of stuff into that time. It feels like we're being whipped through the book as quickly as possible, without leaving anything out (and nothing is).

      Tom Hanks plays Robert Langdon; an expert at ancient symbols and cryptography. Audrey Taotou (ah, sweet sweet Audrey) plays Sophie Neveu, a French detective who's latched on to Langdon in a race for a religious historical artifact before the bad guys (Paul Bettany) do. Along the way they secure the help of another expert (Ian McKellan) to lead them through clue after clue to find what is known as the biggest cover-up in human history. Hot on their trail, is French interpol captain, Bezu Feche (Jean Reno). Think "National Treasure" meets "The Fugitive." Some of the characters though, surprise surprise, are not always who they appear to be.

      Like I said, there is little room for character development; though the cast is impressive and they all are on top of their game and are very likable. Hanks plays the admirable hero, Tautou the lovely tag-along and McKellan the veteran actor whom even the untrained eye can tell is stupendous in any role. I disagree with many message boards and early reviews that say Hanks was the wrong casting choice for Langdon. The second I heard his name in conjunction with the character's name I thought, "perfect." However, the chemistry is practically non-existent among the three; although Hanks and McKellan try their best with what they are given. Paul Bettany as the creepy, albino, self-torturing, bad guy is more than mediocre. Though I ended up feeling sorry for him most of the time, more than I did frightened or threatened.

      You'll have to be prepared to take huge leaps of faith (pardon the pun) to get from point A to point B to point C. Clues and codes are broken preposterously quickly and easily. Whereas in the book, there is a lot of discussion and meditation before the next step is taken by our protagonists. There is a lot of quick explanations given by a character or by dreamlike flashbacks so that the audience is not completely lost as to what happening. I felt like they were nearly reciting lines from the Cliff's notes. Still, although dry and contrived, the explanations are very important and highly interesting. Particularly McKellan's descriptive yarn about the truth behind DaVinci's now famous painting, "The Last Supper." Very few of the little details are left out, though I did notice a few.

      Action sequences are of the utmost simplicity and scattered intermitently between the above mentioned, lengthy moments of exposition. Quick car chases through the forest, small bursts of gunfire or 25 screaming police cars did little to excite my emotions or even give me anything new to see that I haven't seen before. There was just very little suspense for me to hold my breath to. Partly, I'll admit, because I knew what was going to happen.

      So having read the book I was sorely disappointed, as I knew I would be. If I hadn't read the book, I think I would be praising the movie for an extremely interesting story-line that may've kept me least for a while. Howard's style did shine through in a number of places: including a dreamlike walk into an ancient church with ghosts of the past surrounding the characters for a historical feel. The beautiful locales and settings give an ominous (or "church scary") ambience that really works well to convince you that, though completely preposterous, maybe all of these ancient stories and theories really are true. Decoded quickly, the message tells me I should've saved my money and read the book again.

Links: - full cast and crew
Official Site
Purchase the Illustrated version of the book
Dan Brown's web site