Tuesday, November 8, 2016


** out of ****

I watched The Da Vinci Code on a spring day in 2006, knowing that when it was over, I’d be carpooling a bunch of friends to a party a little way out of the city. One of the people I was picking up was a young lady for whom I had I bit of a crush. The problem was that The Da Vinci Code didn’t seem to end.

I impatiently sat through that convoluted excuse for a thriller, where characters spouted expositional dialogue that didn’t save them from their superficial development. In an era of gripping thrillers like the Bourne movies this film was trying to get similar results, but outside of this false cinematic context, it would have been perfectly fitting as a BBC miniseries.

The story’s mystery was eventually solved, the movie did end and I did go to that party - but the story of my love curiosity at that time never blossomed into anything worthwhile, just as The Da Vinci Code didn’t leave me wanting more.

2009 gave us Angels & Demons, a sequel that I skipped without a second thought. Until this week, I was so confident that I could avoid seeing another cinematic entry based on Dan Brown’s novels intended for those who like to live vicariously through a protagonist who is a little like James Bond but always has to visit museums in every exotic country he frequents while keeping things platonic with the select young lady who accompanies him on a mystery.

Starting next week, movies I want to see will start being released. For now, I have to review something.

I feel as if I’m awfulizing something that is actually watchable. This movie is more of the same, but feels tonally shifted. Director Ron Howard this time takes his chameleon abilities to channel the likes of Danny Boyle’s work with kinetic editing geared toward emphasizing psychological disorientation - which does work in the service of the story.

Tom Hanks’ Robert Langdon, who wakes up in an Italian hospital during the film’s beginning with no memory of the last forty-eight hours, is saved from an murder attempt through the help of a nurse played by Felicity Jones, who coincidentally is an incredibly educated follower of the world renowned “Symbologist” protagonist.

A plot unfolds revolving around the recent suicide of a population-control extremist (Ben Foster) who left behind clues to the location of an engineered virus capable of wiping out half the human race. Naturally, these are academic clues that Langdon can solve with the help of the genius nurse. While trying to recover his memory as mysterious agents follow their trail, Langdon struggles to understand what his involvement was with someone’s plan to release a plague and is unsure of whom to trust.

There are ridiculous plot twists aplenty and enough mini-lectures in moments of urgency to leave any rational mind uninvolved with the story’s believability. Still, the locations are grand and well captured. I get the sense that Hanks’ acting, Howard’s direction and David Koepp’s screenwriting are all working in the service of bringing some schlocky material to the screen in the best way they can.

While Felicity Jones is still one of the most emotionally limited of beautiful actresses to gain prominence in recent years, Omar Sy, Ben Foster, Irrfan Khan and Sidse Babett Knudsen make up a nice group of international supporting players.

I still can’t get past all the talent involved in such a forgettable series. Hanks has been doing some of his best work lately and Ron Howard just released an excellent documentary about The Beatles. As long as studio-mandated franchises about symbols and the occult are being brought back, could someone please get Guillermo del Toro and Ron Perlman to finish the Hellboy trilogy?

I saw this movie after a long and tough day when it was nice to simply unwind in a movie theater. Without a party to attend after it was over, I didn’t feel like my time was terribly wasted.

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