Wipe the sweat off of your middlebrow, because it’s finally arrived.
Not even the stalwart members of Reverse Shot could deny the cinematic power of The DaVinci! Seductive, oozing with primordial angst, and iconoclastic in the manner of the very best of Bunuel, Ron Howard’s late-career masterwork has fallen on cinema with the force of a hurricane. Simply put, nothing else matters. (Not even United 93, and that, as you know, wasn’t a film, it was an experience.)
As the film opens, Tom Hanks arrives in the Louvre to investigate the murders of a monk, whose life emerges in a series of flashbacks. Monk Dave (Paul Bettany, reprising his Tom Edison from Dogville with his trademark queeny flare), an albino who wears hoods with more panache than Anakin Skywalker, discovers while trolling through the Louvre one day that there seems to be some odd inscription on the Mona Lisa. Naturally, he can’t get to the front of the line because of the hustle-bustle of the nacho-munching American tourists, so he waits until after hours, when it’s really dark and there are absolutely no security guards to watch over what is probably the world’s most famous framed work of art. After he unscrews the glass covering, he reaches around to the back of the frame and finds a note taped there. “Look closer!” it reads, as Thomas Newman’s already indelible Score for Woodpipe and Xylophone floats over the soundtrack like a plastic bag.
For those who have read Dan Brown’s eloquent, Faulkner-esque novel, the rest won’t come as much of a surprise. Dave is killed for being the monk who knew too much–that Jesus impregnated Mary with a child, who grew up to be….no no, I can’t give it away, but let’s just say he was one of the cast members in Cast Away. A first-rate production all the way, with a thrilling array of spills and chills, The DaVinci Code may just be the only movie ever made. Even the supporting cast is a delight: Ian McKellen is a blind old seer called The Rhinestone, who knows the real story behind The Last Supper (“They served pot roast and Matzoh!”); Audrey Tautou is an Amelie-invoking delight, even in one surpassingly cute moment, raising a spoon to the side of her face and gasping out an adorable French giggle; and as the savage Bennett Drosselmeyer, sent by the Opus Dei missionaries to assassinate Leonardo DaVinci (only to find that he’s been dead for over fifty years), Charles Durning shows a stunning athletic prowess.
Basically, Ron Howard even outdoes The Missing here in sheer generic superfluousness…I mean, superlativeness. Breathlessly paced, ideologically shocking, and spiritually inquisitive, this might be the rebirth of the Summer Blockbuster. At least until Cars.