Directed by Ron Howard. USA. 2006.

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The biggest book in recent years would usually welcome the biggest film of the year.  An opening gala premiere at Cannes, a court case to justify the legitimacy of the author's input and a huge fan base eager to see what the visualisation of their favourite book would look like. 

But here in lies the problem.  The book which read like a 400 page scenario, but with some odd geographical points and some need for disbelief; was always going to be a hard story to adapt for the big screen that would please the following but be welcomed by those new to the book. 

The film is very faithful one, but with a writer like Akiva Goldsman adapting you were never going to get an adaptation of the quality of The Godfather or LA Confidential, both films that took risks with the source material and did make big changes to the story (Jack Vincennes dies and writing out Ed Exley's father in James Ellroy's book).  But this film is so faithful it does not take chances it takes Brown's words as bible and does not even attempt to alter characters and takes their very two-dimensional physical attributes and characteristics, refusing for a different take. 

The film though does provide an usual viewing experience, while the characters describe past events in Christian history we get a version of it play behind them which plays like a slide show or historical children's programme.  All this is vital to showing the history of the huge conspiracy theory, but instead maybe they could have shown the emotion and reaction in the faces of those who knew this haunting information.  The showing of history is at times distracting from the present day treasure hunt which should have been the basis of the film. 

It is a shame because some of the performances are quite good, Tom Hanks is the rock of the picture and although not given the faith of the web he is the central figure of the picture; Ian McKellen hams it up as only he can and Paul Bettany, as Silas, provides the sinister edge to the film and gives us horror in his (unnecessary) self-flagellating scenes. 

Unfortunately through no fault of their own we do not see enough of Jean Reno (Fache) and Alfred Molina, who are victims of the source material. 

In terms of cinematic style it is the weakest film of Ron Howard's oeuvre but he cannot be blamed, he took the very hot potato of controversy that he knew it would be and the film will make a lot of money for Imagine Entertainment (his production company with Brian Grazer) as for everyone else involved. 

The film grossed over $100m worldwide in its first weekend, but unfortunately that old PR tool of positive word of mouth will turn into negative reviews for all concerned.   

There is an old adage that fits this film and all concerned, but in spite of their best efforts they come just short of expectations and the past triumphs of their week,  'You're damned if you do, damned if you don't'. 

Jamie Garwood
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