The Da Vinci Code
Directed by Ron Howard

Written by Akiva Goldsman

Starring Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellen


The Da Vinci Code

Merde alors! The Catholic Church has been covering up the truth about Jesus ever since the Council of Nicaia, way back in 325A.D.! And if you read Dan Brown's book you can only be grateful that Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou are on the trail, speaking like human beings, instead of your having to slog through Brown's convoluted prose for yourself.

As you no doubt know already, our story begins when Silas, a monk (Paul Bettany) - not albino, as in the novel, but apparently covered in a light application of flour for the movie, and who wears the cilice, a self-torturing device that draws blood from your thigh - murders a Louvre curator in front of the Mona Lisa. The murdered man was to have met with Harvard Symbologist Robert Langdon (Hanks) that evening but never showed up. Quickly Hanks and police cryptologist Sophie Neveu (Tautou) are called to the scene to decipher various phrases and palindromes left for them by the murdered man.

Police inspector Bezu Fache (Jean Reno - and that will certainly be my exclamation of choice from now on: Bezu Fache! The dog peed on the carpet!) apparently believes that Langdon and Neveu are the murderers and pursues them to the mansion of Langdon's friend Sir Leigh Teabing (Ian McKellen), another expert on Jesus and his relationship with Mary Magdalene - they apparently married and had children, and the Church has suppressed the news. I think that's enough for you to know, other than that the truth about Jesus, if it ever comes out, will, as the film's trailer says, shake the very foundations of the Church. Oh, and the lay order Opus Dei, in the form of Alfred Molina, is doing everything in its power to keep the lid on.

But the Jesus/Mary Magdalene story is really the film's MacGuffin. "The Da Vinci Code" is in fact a thriller about good guys being pursued by the police for the wrong reasons, and by the bad guys for the right ones. The format has served filmmakers very well for almost a century, and it works here too. Director Ron Howard and his screenwriter Akiva Goldsman know how to use the classic tropes, and they keep the tension high enough so that even those of us who already know the story and how it will come out are kept on a tight leash. Bezu Fache!

Howard is also lucky in his choice of leads. Hanks, with newly grown long hair, is the perfect star for the role; believable, thoughtful, an everyman with brains. Tautou, photographed so her sexy overbite no longer dominates the screen, is articulate enough to read lines well in both English and French. McKellen is, well, McKellen: expert, witty, and obviously having a good time slumming in this film. And Jean Reno, who deserves better, manages to play his part, as always, with calm intelligence and magnetism.

And yes, if you're interested, the film's real villain is Opus Dei; it's hard to imagine this will help their recruiting efforts, but you never know. Masochists of the world, unite! Bezu Fache!