Engrossing from Start to Finish
The Da Vinci Code opens with Robert Langdon, played by Tom Hanks, astonished at Inspector Fache's request for assistance with the Jacques Sauniere murder investigation. Although Langdon was supposed to meet with Sauniere before his lecture on symbols and their meanings, the renowned author and Harvard symbology expert didn't know the late Louvre curator except from his e-mails.
Sauniere (Jean-Pierre Marielle) was one of four people entrusted with a valuable secret that could change the world. The other three individuals were all murdered earlier in the evening. Silas (Paul Bettany), an albino monk assigned to kill Sauniere, is under the deadly spell of a mysterious entity called The Teacher, who wants the secret to remain hidden.
Sauniere lies nude on the floor and has drawn symbols upon his body -- with his own blood. He scribbled out a message containing a riddle and a series of baffling numbers. The curator also wrote on the frame of a painting, using a flourescent marker to indicate a clue. He has hidden a mysterious key and a riddle that when decoded means “Leonardo Da Vinci.” To ensure the correct individual knows to look at a particular painting, Sauniere used his body to mimic the painting itself. Langdon wonders aloud why anyone would bother to do this to themselves.
Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou), a police cryptographer, harbors a secret of her own. Sauniere is her estranged grandfather. Furthermore, Sophie knows Hanks is being set up by Fache as the only suspect in the murder. The pair meet in a washroom where Langdon learns from Sophie that he was slipped a tracking dot by Fache. Langdon and Sophie manage to throw the tracking device out the window onto a moving truck. Initially, Sophie plans to take Langdon to the American Embassy and get him assistance.
Having found the key, Sophie and Robert head off to a strange bank to retrieve the next piece in a bizarre puzzle. The pair successfully enter the code which turns out to be the number the curator left. When the bank manager sees Sophie and Robert's wanted posters on television, he does not want an incident at his bank, and since one of the clauses on the account is to guarantee a safe passage for the holder, he helps them out of the area in an armoured vehicle.
Robert believes Sir Leigh Teabing (Ian McKellen) is the only one who can help him figure things out and not be immediately intercepted. Teabing, an eccentric man in fragile health, is an expert on anything related to the Holy Grail -- and he explains his theory that the truth about the Holy Grail has been suppressed for centuries.
Unfortunately, Silas breaks in with a handgun with intentions to kill everyone. But Teabing, Robert and Sophie take Silas hostage as Teabing arranges for his private plane to be ready to go to Britain. When Teabing arrives, police search the plane but do not check his car where Robert and Sophie have ducked down to hide.
What is the religious secret people are willing to kill to protect? Who is The Teacher? Will Robert and Sophie find answers to these questions and solve this complex theological puzzle?
Director Ron Howard and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman have meticulously recreated Dan Brown’s best-selling novel for the big screen. Howard paces the story well and carefully executes it. The cinematography is breathtaking and there are several solid performances, but McKellen stands out as the eccentric Teabing. The Da Vinci Code offers gripping, suspenseful entertainment from start to finish.
(Released by Columbia Pictures and rated "PG-13" for disturbing images, violence, some nudity, thematic material, brief drug references and sexual content.)
Review also posted at www.movie-critiques.com.