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The Da Vinci Code (2006)
A Controversial film that didn't quite live up to its expected hype
One of the most controversial stories ever told comes to the big screen. Based off the popular novel by Dan Brown, "The Da Vinci Code" tells the story of a famous symbologist, Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), whom is called over by French police to help investigate a crime scene, at the Paris Louvre Museum. Tragically, though, one of the museum's leading curators is found dead with strange symbols carved on his body and around the area where he died. It's then, Robert meets a young cryptographer, Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou), whom might hold the key to this mystery. However, as luck would have it, Robert soon finds out that this crime scene was used to set him up, as part of a huge conspiracy of humanity's biggest cover up. From here, Robert and Sophie discover various clues inside Leonardo Da Vinci's paintings that could hold the key to unlocking the mystery and about our messiah, Jesus Christ, himself. To be honest, I never read the book nor heard of it before the film came out. However, from reading many reviews and articles about the film, it's a lot better than I expected. I know many people will be offended by this film because of its' obvious suggestion of humanizing Jesus which is understandable, but it's surprising that Ron Howard would even try to make film about such a controversial subject. Unfortunately, as expected, Ron chooses to play it safe in this movie by going easy on the religious aspect of the film; trying to appease both catholics and non-catholics. Don't get me wrong, being raised as a catholic myself, I can understand how many christians might find this film offensive, so please don't judge me by this review but listen to what I have to say. I know Jesus had a lot of influence on society, and various cultures have developed their own idea of what he was, so any kind of film about the guy is bound to raise controversy. Indeed, no one wants to even fathom the possibility that Jesus might've at one point in his life lived like one of us. However, as Tom Hanks said, in the film, all history shows us is that Jesus was a great and influential man, but the rest is clearly up to our own interpretation. With such a powerful theme going for this film, one would think this movie would have the makings of another "Last Temptation of Christ", where our interpretation of Jesus would be challenged and make us think. However, that's is not the case here. Instead, you get Ron Howard, who tries to build up this unique movie with various questions of our beliefs, but suddenly wimps out at the end by leaving it open to interpretation. Don't get me wrong, that's not to say that this film sucks in anyway. For what it is, it's a very good film that begs the question of what Jesus truly was in our society's history. Or for that matter, if knowing Jesus had a family would change our minds about his divinity. Whether you agree or disagree with the film's context, this film will definitely be one of the most talked about films of the summer.
Tom Hanks' performance was palatable in this film. Although, Hanks doesn't display the same emotional performance of his previous works such as "Forrest Gump", "Philadelphia" and "Cast Away" that captivated audiences before, he was able to carry himself quite well throughout the film. For those hoping to see Hanks carry a strong emotional tie for the movie, then you'll be sadly disappointed as Hanks' character is used primarily as objective point of view. In the film, Robert Langdon, is not a religious man but of science. A man that happens to fall upon a huge conspiracy that could unravel the entire basis in which Christianity is based upon.
Alfred Molina, Paul Bettany and Sir Ian McKellan on the other hand, I thought played very interesting parts in this film. As Alfred Molina plays Bishop Arigarosa, a priest in the Catholic Church, whom is assigned the responsibility to cover up any evidence of Christ's blood line by taking on any means neccessary. Thus, the enlistment of Silas (Paul Bettany), an Albino Monk whom strongly believes in Christ that he'll kill anyone or anything that might cause the fabric of Christianity to crumble. Being hired and trained by the church, Silas takes it upon himself to not only frame Robert but to destroy Sophie, whom is believed to be Christ's decendent. It's through Silas, that the viewer is able to see the extent of Christian Church belief in hiding the Messiah's blood line. As for McKellan, he plays famous symbologist, Sir Teabing, whom has studied the mysteries regarding the Holy Grail a.k.a. Lady Magdaline, whom might've gave birth to the offspring of Jesus. McKellan's character plays member of a secret society known as the "Priority of Sion", in which depicted in the story as a religious group whom is responsible for keeping the secret documents that hide Jesus' family line. However, it's later revealed that he plans to exploit this fact for his own gain. Thus, showing the viewer the extent of corruption even among those that try to hide Jesus' family history. Indeed, all these actors and the characters they play, pose interesting protagonist and antagonist point of views. Allowing viewers to see the extent of the corruption surrounding both sides of the issue, and allowing the viewer to feel for Sophie and Robert's plight as they're caught in the middle.
Unfortunately, though, with so much promise, Ron Howard decides to bail out at the end. From what I heard of the book, this film should've challenged our beliefs in how we viewed Jesus much like Martin Scorsese did in "Last Temptation of Christ." However, unlike Scorsese, Ron still appears to be the same kind of guy he was on "Happy Days"; a wimp. In the end, Ron gives the movie a vague and open conclusion. In the film, it seems like most of the time Robert is trying to explain Sophie's connection to the Messiah throughout the film, which makes the film seem slower than it actually is. (Warning: Possible Spoiler Alert!) In the film, it's never proven if Sophie is the definite decendant of Lady Magdaline or Jesus, or for that matter if she has any kind of divine powers either. It seems like Ron tries to avoid answering those questions all together.
I know many people have their own interpretations of what Jesus was, so any kind of film about him is going to offend a lot of folks. Sure, it's hard to believe that our savior, even in a fictional novel, would sleep with a girl. However, this film does pose a good question about Jesus. As many people watch this film, I hope they keep an open mind. It may have been possible Jesus could've had a wife. Even though he was God's son, he was still raised by humans. Who's to say that Jesus didn't desire many of the same things that we do. And it was traditional for many Hebrews to get married when they grew up. My personal belief is that Jesus was both; our messiah and a man. You can take that opinion for what it's worth, but that's how I feel. Sure, the popular belief is Jesus was the only perfect man to walk the Earth and died for our sins. However, I think it's even nobler of him to have alot of the same desires and flaws that we do, but he was willing to give that up to become the messiah. Sure, I could be wrong, but who's to say I'm not right either. Just like this film. Sure, Jesus might've had a daughter, or maybe he didn't. Should that honestly affect how we feel about him and about what he stood for?
This film is completely fictitious with several ties to mythology, religious and historical facts to make the story more believable. The concept of the story should prove intriquing for anyone who wants to see it. Sadly, for such a controversial topic, the story falls short of what it could've been. However, it should keep anyone, whom wants to see it, entertained none the less. Just as long as everyone keeps an open mind about the movie. Whether you agree with this film's concept or not, people will definitely be talking about this film for years to come.