Based on the bestselling novel by Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code follows author Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) in a quest to solve a 2,000 year old mystery. When a crime scene in the Louvre threatens to expose a secret covered up by the Catholic Church, Langdon teams up with a French cryptographer (Audrey Tautou) and an elderly scholar (Ian McKellen) to find out the truth, all the while being pursued by a police captain (Jean Reno) and a murderous devotee (Paul Bettany).
With so much controversy surrounding its wildly popular source material, I had expected The Da Vinci Code to be an intensely charged and polarizing thriller that might incite a few riots at the box office. But ironically, the film that tries to shake the foundations of one of the world's most widespread religions is being met with surprisingly mild reactions from moviegoing audiences. The central premise being protested by certain overzealous groups (the notion that Jesus fathered a child with Mary Magdalene, and that the Church sanctions a radical faction that will kill to protect this secret) rings far more of fiction than fact; and indeed, it feels like any other movie or television show focused on government conspiracies.
If that's your thing, then The Da Vinci Code may be for you, as it firmly sticks to the conventions of the conspiracy thriller: twists and turns abound, betrayal and danger lurk around every corner, and a dark mystery with far-reaching implications is unraveled bit by bit. There are even a few car chase scenes thrown in for good measure. Theories and historical speculation are some of the film's more compelling elements. Curiously, this pseudo-history that is being condemned as "half-truths and lies" probably has greater potential to inspire interest in Church origins than a spontaneous crisis of faith.
Symbols, codes, and hidden messages also figure prominently into the mystery of the story. Unfortunately, their truths are often delivered too easily. The heroes of the movie never seem to run into dead ends or outright failure. Instead, there are a lot of hunches that turn out to be the right answers, and first guesses that lead to immediate solutions. This may be a disappointment to those hoping for puzzles more clever than what would typically be found in a video game.
In the way of acting, Da Vinci sports a strong ensemble cast, though they are frequently undermined by the script's dialogue. Tom Hanks has several lines that elicit inadvertent laughter (give him credit for keeping a straight face through that "last descendant of Christ" bit), and Ian McKellen gets away with a lot of sweeping, melodramatic speeches only by virtue of being Ian McKellen (he'll be repeating this impressive feat in another movie this summer, X-Men: The Last Stand).
Ultimately, your enjoyment of The Da Vinci Code will more likely hinge on your opinion of the cast and the genre rather than any religious beliefs you may have going into it. As with most controversies, the debate surrounding this movie has been somewhat overstated. In reality, it's quite an innocuous offering that can be easily accepted as the entertainment commodity that it is. (I know, some fanatics will argue that that is "exactly what they want you to believe." Faced with such a retort, I suppose I would just have to shrug and admit that those sly rascals have seen through my dastardly facade!)
The Da Vinci Code is based on the bestselling novel by Dan Brown.