While on a book tour in Paris, Robert Langdon, professor of Religious Symbology at Harvard University finds himself framed for the murder of Jacques Saunière, the curator of the Louvre Museum, whom he has never met. His analytical skills and Saunière’s granddaughter keep him one step ahead of the police as the search for the killer reveals an elaborate plan that could shake the foundations of world history and alter life as we know it.
As one of the over 60 million readers of Dan Brown’s book, I knew how the film ended yet I still enjoyed watching the puzzles get solved and the stories get told. However, I am not sure the film is completely satisfying because the story is much better suited to a novel.
The Da Vinci Code has a great deal of exposition and back-story that doesn’t seem intrusive when relayed in a novel. The film comes to a halt many times as numerous flashbacks inform the viewer of relevant information. Even when the plot moves forward, the pacing is slow because Langdon isn’t your typical movie hero. He’s very passive, usually reacting to situations rather than initiating them, and there’s not a lot of action as he thinks about the puzzles. The structure of the story throws the film's pacing off as well.
The action and conflict reach a climax when the villains are caught, but there is a lengthy denouement as the film continues because the major puzzles have yet to be solved.
The Da Vinci Code looks great, although when you are shooting in the Louvre Museum that is to be expected. Director Ron Howard and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman focus too much on the illustration of the puzzles and the back-story, causing neglect in other areas. The performances were adequate in the service of moving the plot along, but none of them were especially memorable except for Sir Ian McKellen, who is one of our greatest living actors. Even the normally reliable Tom Hanks doesn’t bring much to his role, which could be due to the subdued nature of Langdon.