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"The Da Vinci Code"
Reviewer:
Wayne Klein
Studio: Sony Home Video
Genre: Drama
Release:
11/21/06
Special Features: First Day on the Set with Ron Howard,- Discussion with Dan Brown,- Portrait of Robert Langdon,- Who is Sophie Neveu?, Unusual Suspects, Magical Places, Close Up of Mona Lisa, Filmmaker's Journey, Codes of The Da Vinci Code, Music of The Da Vinci Code, DVD-Rom Content
Review:

When I took art history at UCLA I never suspected that it would enhance the viewing of a mainstream Hollywood thriller. While you don't need to understand the use of symbolism in art history, it's impact on our culture and religion to enjoy "The Da Vinci Code" it certainly helps appreciate all the intricate detail and work that went into both Dan Brown's popular novel and the film of the same name. As a result I'm recommending watching the special features documentary up front for fans of the film as it will give you a deeper, richer understanding of this fictional thriller. ***

It's truly impossible to gauge what will catch on with the public. Dan Brown's controversial thriller certainly took the public by surprise and despite it's convoluted plot involving the Catholic Church, the Holy Grail, murder and religious symbolism captured the public's imagination. Ron Howard's film has the advantage of being faithful to the book's plot while breezing along in comparison to Brown's slowly unwinding tale. ***

Harvard professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) an expert in symbolism in Paris lecturing and signing copies of his latest book is reeled in by police into the investigation of the murder of Louvre curator Jacque Sauniere. It seems that all the symbols at the murder scene not only link Langdon to the killing but make him the prime and only suspect in the case. Langdon tries to prove his innocence with the help of French cryptologist and police officer Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou) as French police officer Fache (Jean Reno) pursues him throughout Europe. Desperately Langdon and Neveu try and unravel the series of clues left behind both in the Louvre and in other places to discover not only who murdered Sauniere but also discover the connection between Leonardo Da Vinci, the Knights of Templar and a secret sect of the Catholic Church before they are both killed by a mysterious albino monk named Silas (Paul Bettany). ***

Featuring a number of strong supporting performances by Ian McKellan, Alfred Molina and others Ron Howard's film of " The Da Vinci Code" uses many of the visual motifs to tell a story involving symbols doing an excellent job of externalizing a story that largely takes place in Langdon's head. I was surprisingly taken by Hanks winning performance as Langdon and most of the casting seemed perfect despite some reservations I had with some of the actors. ---

Image & Sound:

The film looks marvelous as it is presented on this DVD canvas. Colors are vivid without being too overwhelming or giving the film a cartoon vibe and detail remarkably consistent and sharp. The 5.1 format is utilized extremely well with nice sonic detail that captures the urgent tone of the film and manages to envelop the viewer in the story. ---

Special Features:

There is a special gift edition that includes a coder supposedly designed by Da Vinci and featured prominently in the film. Fans of the movie will probably enjoy this replica and the set would make a marvelous Christmas gift. ***

The two disc set comes packed with extras. The first disc features the film and previews with the bulk of the special features isolated on disc two of the set. Divided into smaller portions the second disc features a comprehensive documentary on the making of the film that can be viewed altogether or as individual chapters. The chapters are as follows; First Day on the Set with Ron Howard,- Discussion with Dan Brown,- Portrait of Robert Langdon,- Who is Sophie Neveu?, Unusual Suspects, Magical Places, Close Up of Mona Lisa, Filmmaker's Journey, Codes of The Da Vinci Code, Music of The Da Vinci Code. I'd suggest watching as I did the entire documentary in one sitting if you can as watching it piecemeal doesn't do the documentary service. The use of symbols throughout the film and its impact in art, literature and religion is an important aspect of the story and the best way to appreciate the great amount of detail that went into the film as well as understanding it's significance is to watch this material AFTER you've viewed the film as there are significant spoilers. ***

We also get DVD-Rom content in the form of a Puzzle Game Feature which unfortunately I didn't have time to play with prior to writing this review. Unfortunately there isn't a commentary track from Howard or screenwriter Avira Goldsmith (who also adapted "A Beautiful Mind" for Howard managing to distill that complex biography into a riveting drama) much less Brown or Hanks. That's too bad as their insight into the process of making the film from a complex mainstream thriller would have been fascinating. The only other film of this sort that even attempted to cover similar ground was the period piece "The Name of the Rose" which failed to capture the literary complexity with visuals quite as well as this one (to be fair though that fine film had a novel that was much more complex and intricate even than Brown's novel. I doubt that most filmmakers would have had the ability to make it in such a way that it mirrored the complexity of the novel with a visual narrative equally as rich). ---

Final Words:

A surprisingly strong adaptation of a bestselling novel "The Da Vinci Code" manages to be a sleek thriller with big names. Ron Howard does an exceptional job of directing material that could have become boring an pedantic in the hands of a lesser director. The cast delivers the goods (for the most part although I wasn't convinced by Audrey Tautou) for Howard making this thriller a memorable vehicle for star Tom Hanks.

 

 
 
 
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