Dan Brown's best-selling book THE DA VINCI CODE gets adapted for the big screen thanks to director Ron Howard (CINDERELLA MAN), who helms this big budget production. Veteran actor Tom Hanks stars as professor Robert Langdon, whose Parisian lecture tour on feminine symbolism gets disrupted when he's implicated in a murder at the Louvre. Co-starring with Hanks is Audrey Tautou (AMELIE), the French police analyst who comes to Langdon's aid and who may hold the key to some of the mysteries. The cast is fleshed out by Jean Reno as a hangdog French detective who thinks he can trick Langdon into a confession; Paul Bettany as Silas, the murderous monk; Alfred Molina as an evil Catholic cardinal; and Ian McKellen, who steals the movie in the second act as a crotchety old authority on the Holy Grail. During the course of the film, all sorts of riddles, keys, clues, and enigmas are thrown in our hero's path, along with bullets, knives, and devious betrayals.
Cinematographer Salvatore Toltino shoots in a dark and somber style, with lots of detailed flashbacks to grim scenes from ancient Rome, the Crusades, and the witch hunts of the Middle Ages. Tautou looks gorgeous in the perpetual dim light, as does the ancient French and British architecture. With so many centuries of hidden knowledge, cults, sects, and Christianity-shattering secrets involved, this may have been confusing to those not acquainted with the book, but Howard and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman ingeniously weave the myriad layers into a true thrill ride. Ultimately, THE DA VINCI CODE is a thoughtful action film, with a refreshingly clear-eyed approach to world history that may scandalize the close-minded, but is sure to enlighten those open to new ideas.