I was taken aback when, about a third of the way through The Da Vinci Code, I started enjoying the film much against my previous expectations. Tom Hanks, who was criticized by many a reviewer for his flat performance, was actually just that – flat. But this threw Audrey Tautou‘s performance into the spotlight, and she seemed to carry the film rather well, with that wide-eyed sweetness that is so uniquely hers. Towards the end, as she skims her heel across a pond to see if she can walk on water, I thought that Sophie Neveu had been represented about as well as Dan Brown’s words could have permitted.
But if there is one perfomance worth talking about, it is Ian McKellen‘s – energetic and feral, with that Gandalfian twinkle in his eyes, suggesting wisdom or mischief or madness. I didn’t quite imagine him in Leigh Teabing’s shoes, but was converted as soon as the veteran actor bounded on to the scene.
Now, one has to ask: Why all the bad reviews? Was the film so bad as to deserve a 24% rating at Rotten Tomatoes, as on June 4? Clearly, it is not an exceptional film, limited as it is, first and foremost, by its source material. Dan Brown’s book, while being ingeniously plotted and sensational, does not qualify as deep literature; it is not even pleasurable to read as far as style is concerned. It has nowhere near the complexity or wisdom or color that is seen in the work of someone like Umberto Eco who writes much better books on related themes. The second limiting factor is Ron Howard’s direction. The film is full of oversimplified and overdramatized scenes reminiscent – in their special effects and strategy – of A Beautiful Mind – another well-acted film which Hollywoodized a mathematician (badly).
Still, The Da Vinci Code functions decently as a thriller. For someone who has not read the book, it might be hard or even too fast to follow. For someone who has read it, it still has the capacity to thrill – or might it be that I visit the big screen so rarely, that it takes very little to draw me in to the magic of the movies?. I would give it 6/10, which is still higher than what most reviewers would rate it. I wonder how many of the reviewers were, consciously or subconsciously, slighted by the subject matter of the book, to the extent that their beliefs overcame their leniency. I would have to read the reviews to find out, which would need too much time. When I read about the extensive coverage that the film has got on TV channels, I cannot help but think that this is a way to kill two birds with one stone – publicize the film to help it make money, and also permit Christian scholars to assert that the film is just a work of fiction and true believers need not be alarmed.
If you watched the film, I would like to hear what you thought about it. Was it better than it has been made out to be? Or worse?