The extended cut of The Da Vinci Code certainly doesn’t add anything drastically affecting to the plot of this controversial thriller, but the pacing is only slightly spoiled (theatrical run time: 149 min, extended run time: 174 min). It runs 6 minutes shy of three hours, and yet the first three-fourths of the film still moves at a suspenseful, action-packed pace. Like the theatrical version, the final chapter drags ever so slightly, culminating in an ending that will either amuse audiences or upset them. There’s no middle ground for the conclusion, although the acting, unraveling of conspiracies, terrifying villains, and surprisingly intense chase sequences still make The Da Vinci Code a riveting mystery, provided the heavy religious predominance doesn’t disagree.
Louvre curator Jacques Sauniere is discovered murdered in the famous museum, with several desperate clues left for Dr. Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), a renowned symbology expert. Covered in markings scrawled in his own blood, Sauniere has provided extremely secret code to help Langdon and French Cryptology division agent Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou) uncover the “dark con of man,” a myth that spans 2000 years.
According to legend, the Priory of Sion is a cloak-and-dagger group assigned to guard a devastating secret about Jesus Christ and the origins of Christianity. Their opposition is a fanatic cult-like faction of the Catholic Church known as Opus Dei that relentlessly seeks out the artifacts of proof that the Scion protects, stopping at nothing to destroy them, forever burying the truth. It may all be theories, centering on the famed paintings of Leonardo Da Vinci, but Langdon and Neveu are dragged into a world of dangerous people who think this stuff is real – resulting in a life-threatening hunt for the answers before the mysterious “Teacher” and a murderous monk catch up to them.
One of the more memorable villains in recent cinema, Silas the albino monk (Paul Bettany) is a tortured soul who believes he is an angel sent to help the ruthless Bishop Manuel Aringarosa (Alfred Molina). Practicing self flagellation and bloodthirsty violence against nuns, his pasty skin, demonic eyes and tendency to jump out at unexpected moments leaves a disturbing lasting impression.
The aggregation of religious implications and theories, presented in an electrifying treasure hunt brimming with puzzles, codes and symbols, is nothing short of fascinating, whether they’re convincing or contrary to the viewer’s beliefs. While generous amounts of time are spent on flashbacks, explanations of religious ideologies (old wives’ tales and parlor tricks claims Langdon), the major focus is on solving, sleuthing and getting caught up in adventure. Like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade mixed with National Treasure and a prevailingly ecclesiastical motif (not to be confused with purely anti-Catholic themes), The Da Vinci Code is foremost movie-going entertainment.
– Mike Massie (www.GoneWithTheTwins.com)