After all the hoopla and expectation surrounding its release, Ron Howard’s film version of Dan Brown’s book is little more than an average pot-boiler.
Given the sales of the book and the recent controversy surrounding the film’s release (much of it the usual bleating from religious organisations) you might be forgiven for thinking that the film version is an exciting event in the film calendar. After all, its not every day a film is based on a book that has sold over 60 million copies. But even by the standards of mainstream Hollywood blockbusters this is a tired and plodding affair.
The action of the film can summed up like this: Harvard professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) is called into the Louvre one night to examine a murder scene. There he becomes embroiled in a conspiracy involving shadowy elements of the Catholic church and engages in an extended chase across Europe with a French cryptologist (Audrey Tatou) and a rich historian (Ian McKellen).
On the surface, all of this might sound vaguely intriguing. History, religion and murder could be decent ingredients for a mainstream thriller but director Ron Howard and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman have merely crafted a densely plotted and sprawling adaptation of Dan Brown’s novel. Most of the action involves the main characters talking in earnest tones about the ludicrous soup of historical and religious ideas that form the basis for the plot.
It is hard to watch talented actors like Hanks, Tatou, McKellen and Jean Reno given such one dimensional roles and substandard dialogue. At times McKellen livens things up a little with a performance that suggests he knows how ludicrous the whole thing is. Paul Bettany as a killer albino monk (no, I’m not making this up) is another fine actor trapped in an undercooked role. Unfortunately, characters in this film aren’t real human beings but merely mouthpieces for endless amounts of tedious exposition.
The film has achieved a lot of pre-release publicity courtesy of the Catholic Church who have been offended by the book and the film’s treatment of the bible. But don’t let all the pseudo debates about the ‘controversial’ nature of the story convince you this is an edgy or interesting film. Maybe the filmmakers decided to take their foot off the gas, knowing how wildly successful the book was. But given the different elements that make up the plot as well as the talent involved in bringing it to the screen, it may take experts a long time to decipher how on earth it could be so dull.