Something’s missing in the code…

davinci1The Da Vinci Code (2006) (Blu-ray)

With Inferno coming to the cinema next week, it seemed timely to revisit the earlier films in the franchise, so to make a start I dug out my old blu-ray of The Da Vinci Code.

Okay, guilty admission time: I quite enjoyed the Dan Brown book, and have a soft spot for the film. I remember reading the book on a summer holiday, thinking it was a great (albeit daft) page -turner surely destined to be a movie (in a similar fashion when reading The Martian years later).Of course the success of the book inevitably had the Hollywood big boys attention and what might have been a successful minor film turned into a triple-A talent blockbuster starring no less than Tom Hanks in the lead with Ron Howard directing.

Now, regular readers of this blog will know  I have my issues with Ron Howard- he’s a competent director with some box-office hits behind him, but his films are generally functional, well-crafted but lacking any personal ‘voice’ and thats true of The Da Vinci Code too. It tells its story and technically its competent, but it never gets under the skin of the characters or what makes the central conceit of the story so beguiling; it isn’t based on the book or a commentary on the book, it simply is the book.

Its a standard thriller/page-turner/potboiler and feels rather soulless. Its as lazily presented as the book is lazily written, full of both interesting and preposterous ideas, tantalising possibilities and gaping plot-holes, all swept up in a driving rush to the finale (the whole point of the hot pursuit and relentless pace of the film is simply to stop the audience having time or opportunity to think too much about what they are seeing).

Its a Hitchcock thriller by way of art history notes/conspiracy angst and religious dogma- Stanley Kubrick might have added some personal commentary or examination of what exactly attracted people to the wild fancies of this book, and what that might tell us of Western Civilization in a new millennium. Howard though, is no Kubrick, he’s a director with a job to do; to simply put the book onscreen, which he manages admirably. I would have liked a bit more but it’s likely unfair to criticize Howard for doing his job. Its doubly unfair of me to compare Howard to Kubrick too.

The film does have an above-average Hans Zimmer score though, which is something, but even that feels fairly routine -there’s no humour in the score at all, something which might have enlivened the film a little. The whole thing is deadpan and serious, treating the story with a reverence that is almost confounding. Not once does Hanks give the audience a wink that he knows it’s all daft hokum. Instead the film threatens to collapse under the weight of all that reverence and rigidity to a book that doesn’t really deserve it, or is able to support it.

That said, there is an old-school, Hitchcock thriller feel to the film that is rather endearing, and it’s certainly a change from all the CGI-dominated superhero heroics dominating Hollywood today, so yeah, despite my misgivings, I do have a soft spot for it. One of those guilty pleasures I guess. And nothing with Tom Hanks in can be all bad.

2 thoughts on “Something’s missing in the code…

    1. Well, the books may have had their day but you know how bereft Hollywood is of any imagination. Inferno is one I hadn’t read (although my wife has) so the film will be new to me, but it does seem a little late to the party. I guess the box-office will reveal just how late, as regardless of the quality of the films themselves, they do seem to have been very popular up to now.

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