The Da Vinci Code
: Critics and controversy aside, The Da Vinci Code
is a verifiable blockbuster. Combine the film's huge worldwide box-office take with over 100 million copies of Dan Brown's book sold, and The Da Vinci Code
has clearly made the leap from pop-culture hit to a certifiable franchise (games and action figures are sure to follow). The leap for any story making the move from book to big screen, however, is always more perilous. In the case of The Da Vinci Code
, the story is concocted of such a preposterous formula of elements that you wouldn't envy Akiva Goldsman, the screenwriter who was handed a potentially unfilmable book and asked to make a filmable script out of it. Goldsman's solution was to have the screenplay follow the book as closely as possible, with a few needed changes, including a better ending. The result is a film that actually makes slightly better entertainment than the book.
So if you're like most of the world, by now you've read the book and know that it starts out as a murder mystery. While lecturing in Paris, noted Harvard Professor of Symbology Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) is summoned to the Louvre by French police help decipher a bizarre series of clues left at the scene of the murder of the chief curator, Jacques Sauniere. Enter Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou), gifted cryptologist and Sauniere's granddaughter. Neveu and Langdon are forced to team up to solve the mystery, and from there the story is propelled across Europe as it balloons into a modern-day mini-quest for the Holy Grail, complete with alternative theories about the life of Christ, ancient secret societies headed by historical figures like Leonardo Da Vinci, secret codes, conniving bishops, daring escapes, car chases, and, of course, a murderous albino monk controlled by a secret master who calls himself "The Teacher."
Taken solely as a mystery thriller, the movie almost works--despite some gaping holes--mostly just because it keeps moving forward at the breakneck pace set in the book. Brown's greatest trick might have been to have the entire story take place in a day so that the action is forced to keep going, despite some necessary pauses for exposition. Hanks and Tautou are just fine together but not exactly a memorable screen pair; meanwhile, Sir Ian McKellen's scenery-chewing as pivotal character Sir Leigh Teabing is just what the film needs to keep it from taking itself too seriously. In the end, this hit movie is just like a good roller-coaster ride: try not to think too much about it--just sit back and enjoy the trip. --Daniel Vancini, Amazon.com
Hindi, Norwegian, Finnish, English, Danish, Swedish Region:
Region free Angels & Demons
: If the devil is in the details, there's a lot of wicked fun in Angels & Demons
, the sequel (originally a prequel) to The Da Vinci Code
. Director Ron Howard delivers edge-of-your-pew thrills all over the Vatican, the City of Rome, and the deepest, dankest catacombs. Tom Hanks is dependably watchable in his reprised role as Professor Robert Langdon, summoned urgently to Rome on a matter of utmost urgency--which happens to coincide with the death of the Pope, meaning the Vatican is teeming with cardinals and Rome is teeming with the faithful. A religious offshoot group, calling themselves the Illuminati, which protested the Catholic Church's prosecution of scientists 400 years ago, has resurfaced and is making extreme, and gruesome, terrorist demands.
The film zooms around the city, as Langdon follows clues embedded in art, architecture, and the very bone structure of the Vatican. The cast is terrific, including Ewan McGregor, who is memorable as a young protégé of the late pontiff, and who seems to challenge the common wisdom of the Conclave just by being 40 years younger than his fellows when he lectures for church reform. Stellan Skarsgard is excellent as a gruff commander of the Swiss Guard, who may or may not have thrown in with the Illuminati. But the real star of the film is Rome, and its High Church gorgeousness, with lush cinematography by Salvatore Totino, who renders the real sky above the Vatican, in a cataclysmic event, with the detail and majesty of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. --A.T. Hurley, Amazon.com
English, English for the Hard of Hearing, HindiRegion:
Double bill of thrillers based on the best-selling novels of Dan Brown. In 'Angels and Demons' (2009), Tom Hanks stars as Harvard symbologist and religious expert Robert Langdon, who must work alongside Vittoria (Ayelet Zurer), the beautiful daughter of a murdered Italian physicist, to unravel the clues behind her father's murder and prevent a terrorist act against the Vatican by resurgents of an ancient secret brotherhood known as the Illuminati, the most powerful underground organisation in history. In 'The Da Vinci Code' (2006) Langdon (Hanks) is summoned to the Louvre by the French version of the FBI, led by Captain Bezu Fache (Jean Reno), and soon discovers that he is the prime suspect for the murder of a historian he had been scheduled to meet with. Assisted by a French cryptographer and government agent named Sophie (Audrey Tautou), Langdon is challenged to decipher a chain of cryptic codes and puzzles, all the while trying to stay ahead of Fache's lawmen in a chase through the Louvre, out into the Parisian cityscape, and finally across the channel to England. Can Langdon and Sophie decipher the nature of a secret dating back to Leonardo Da Vinci, and even earlier, before those responsible for the historian's murder add them to their hit list?