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Category:    Home > Reviews > Mystery > Thriller > Drama > Religion > The Da Vinci Code (Full Screen)

The Da Vinci Code (Full Screen)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: B-     Film: C+



Ron Howard should have had a huge hit with Cinderella Man (reviewed elsewhere on this site), but instead of stopping short of doing just any film as his next project when it did not get the credit it deserved, he nabbed Dan Brown’s shockingly huge best seller The Da Vinci Code and to sure up things landed Tom Hanks as the encryption expert Robert Langdon.  He does not fall for the latest meaning of any symbol, knowing to do so is more like letting something symbolic become a fashion statement.  He thinks on a deeper level, which is good, because he will need all his wits about him for what he is about to walk into.


He soon meets up with a cryptologist to compare notes with (Audrey Tautou, who has been on a streak of oddball film material for years anyhow) who seems to be able to hold her own, but as odd things begin to happen, she may know privileged information that has nothing to do with either of their fields and could get them both killed.  A bizarre murder has taken place and Langdon has been called in to help with the investigation.  Sophie (Tautou) tags along to help.  They meet all kinds of interesting characters including an investigator (Jean Reno), knowledgeable old man (Ian McKellan), religious figure (Alfred Molina), man who may know too much (Jurgen Prochnow) and deadly killer assassin (Paul Bettany) who does not hesitate to eliminate his targets.


The film runs a very long 149 minutes and you do not necessarily have to reads the book to enjoy the film to the credit of screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, but it is also designed to stir readers who love the book.  Though Hanks’ symbol moments might remind some of Howard’s A Beautiful Mind with Russell Crowe at times, the film does not hound on those moments to its credit.  However, it does have its moments that run on and the conclusion is anti-climactic and even unintentionally funny, but those who take it (too?) seriously will not be discouraged.  It is worth a look and a professional production through and through.  However, there seems to be a few missed opportunities here, even if it follows the book to the satisfaction of many.


Though shot in Super 35mm to be shown at 2.35 X 1 scope framing, the film is such a huge international hit that Sony has issued the film in a pan & scan Full Screen edition for old TV sets.  At 1.33 X 1, using some of the dead space in the Super 35 frame, Salvatore Totino’s cinematography is still nice to look at.  However, composition is obviously odd and not how it was intended.  I guess it will be a few more years even after 2009 when TV goes all 16 X 9/1.78 X 1 widescreen HDTV because plenty of people still have and will have square TVs.  Some DVDs include both versions, sometimes as double sets, but to put both versions on one disc cuts into the picture quality of each.


The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is also cut down to fit the narrow vision of the frame, though you can hear the fidelity intended and I bet this will be amazing on Blu-ray, the soundfield is not what a scope film and this film specifically had in theaters.  The combination is good for those who do not care about accurate reproduction of the film overall, but it is watchable for those who “just want to see it” as it were, as if “just” was good enough.


Extras are many and interesting, even if you do not like the film, including the first day on the set with Ron Howard, Director Ron Howard introducing the film & the excitement of beginning production at the Louvre in Paris, the following ten featurettes: “The Da Vinci Code” author Dan Brown, A Portrait of Langdon, Who is Sophie Neveu?, Unusual Suspects - The international cast…Colorful, memorable and frightening characters, Magical Places, Close-up on Mona Lisa, The Filmmaking Experience Part 1 - Includes a DVD exclusive look at filming the last and revealing scene, The Filmmaking Experience Part 2, The Codes of "The Da Vinci Code" and “The Music of "The Da Vinci Code", bonus previews and a DVD-ROM "Da Vinci Code" Puzzle Game PC Demo.  Sony has gone all out here, further perpetuating the interesting mania and interest in the film.  The way it is labeled, this second disc could be the exact same one found in the widescreen edition, which is the preferred set until the Blu-ray arrives.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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