The Da Vinci Code
by M. Kapoh
The following is a review of the movie, The Da Vinci Code, from the perspective of my friend, Mark Kapoh, who is an experienced police officer.
Saw the movie…stupid and boring.
Aside from the errors and misstatement of facts, documents, and history that form the “basis” for the Da Vinci Code, people plainly cannot keep secrets. People are never truly on the same side of any issue. People are saddled with their own egos, prejudices, agendas (both spoken and unspoken), opinions, likes and dislikes, ethics, etc. This guarantees that the greater the secret and the consequences for revealing the secret, the greater likelihood that someone involved will spill the beans for a variety of reasons.
The Hell’s Angels have a saying: two can keep a secret if one is dead. Dan Brown (and Ron Howard) expect too much by expecting the audience suspend reality and believe that two secret societies (Opus Dei and Priory of Sion) have spent centuries battling over Jesus’ divinity yet both manage to keep the entire struggle a complete and utter secret? Impossible. The truth ALWAYS comes out.
I also found it extremely improbable that Professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) could successfully elude the French authorities, easily solve complex riddles, piece together a mystery that spans centuries and continents, decipher evidence, and survive physical assault from a deranged albino assassin-monk without any resources, assistance, or experience to fall back on. At one point in the movie he and the movies heroine had been implicated in four homicides! They had little money, sleep, or food; they had no covert organization to supply them with safe travel, food, safe houses, information, false identities, etc. It is possible to elude the authorities in Europe (or anywhere for that matter) as long as you stay under the radar (i.e., not becoming a target in the first place). Once you are hunted, it is almost impossible for the professional covert operative (the terrorist or intelligence operative) to remain hidden for long. Say what you want about the French government, the French police are quite accustomed to dealing with terrorists, the mafia, and common criminals. Like any good cops, fighting crime is simple: know your beat, work your beat. When you do that, things and people that don’t belong jump out and demand your attention. An American (wearing American clothes and speaking American) with a pretty French woman is going to get noticed.
In the 70’s Israel sent teams of covert ops people from their Mossad (the Israeli Intelligence agency) to assassinate PLO operatives that had been identified as participating in the 1972 massacre of their athletes at the Olympic games in Munich. I read a book called Vengeance which was written by the team leader of one of the teams. He was former Israeli Special Forces. His team was formed in Israel and were professionally trained covert ops personnel with specialty training in logistics, intelligence (gathering, evaluating, analyzing, and counter-intelligence), planning, bomb making, languages, false documents, etc. All of the team were shooters, meaning they were trained assassins (they favored a silenced Beretta 22 caliber shooting sub-sonic ammunition – these made quiet little pops when they fired and couldn’t be heard on the other side of a small room). Each team member had multiple sets of expertly forged documents and identities and thousands of dollars in various currencies (standard practice for escape and evasion if they were compromised). The teams were paid through Swiss banks accounts in foreign currencies and had no contact with Israel. They were completely self contained hit teams. Weapons, information, forged documents, vehicles, safe houses, explosives, etc. were bought from a criminal syndicate using laundered money. Nothing traced back to Israel, even the team members themselves. Their false identities made them citizens of European nations. They only had two rules, no innocents were to die (even if it meant passing on their target) and no ties to the Israeli government.
They operated mainly in France where they assassinated several PLO targets over a couple of years. Each assassination took months of planning and preparation. Each target was followed around on their daily business; phones were tapped, habits noted, preferences discerned. Each hit utilized different methods and techniques to foil investigation and keep future targets guessing.
One night after a couple of years of successful operations, the team discovered that an apartment they had been using as a safe house had been booby trapped with several bombs. They cleared out and their bomb maker went in to disarm the bombs (he needed to recover or destroy something inside the apartment). The bomb maker was killed and the team went into escape and evasion mode. Each team member split up and went further underground operating completely independent of any of the others. They waited for months then would meet at a pre-designated location to re-group, but shortly thereafter, another teammate was killed in an attack. They began to hunt down whoever was targeting them and discovered that they had been compromised by a French criminal syndicate known as the “Organization” who had finally put two and two together (the purchasing of weapons, explosives, vehicles, documents, and safe houses with the assassinations of PLO operatives). The assassinations were being chalked up to inter-PLO or inter-terrorist in-fighting not Israeli hit teams). The Organization provided information, material, and operatives for a price and the team was sold out to the PLO for a price. The PLO paid for some free-lance assassins who carried out the attacks against the team when they ‘surfaced’ to continue their mission. Eventually the team killed the assassins and once again escaped and evaded out of Europe. Israel refused to continue their pay until they got back to work, but the team leader refused on behalf of the team saying they were totally compromised and would be likely targeted for future attacks by the PLO. When Mossad threatened the team leaders family (now living in New York), he went to NYC and photographed the family of the lead Mossad agent assigned to the NYC UN delegation. The threat was implicit, you mess with my family and lose yours. He never was contacted by the Israeli government again. He was never paid either, but he got over it.
The point is that true professionals working with the resources of organized crime and the support of a nation were not enough to operate completely covert for ever. How could Robert Langdon (T. Hanks)? They spent thousands of dollars, marks, francs, guilders, pounds, etc. over a little less two years and still it wasn’t enough. Utilizing all of their training and experience wasn’t enough.
By the way, the movie “Munich” by Spielberg is loosely based on the book Vengeance. I say loosely because unlike the movie, the team leader in the book expressed no reservations for killing terrorists. Neither did his team mates, if his book is to be believed and I believe it. They volunteered to go on a dangerous mission to kill terrorists. Why cry about it? ‘Munich’ is Spielberg’s attempt to “humanize” terrorists and excuse their use of terror to achieve political goals. Terrorists intentionally target innocent people to force their will on others. That’s the difference between us and them.
While I think “The DA Vinci Code” failed as a story from merely a practical standpoint, I also believe the true heresy of the book and movie lie in the falsehoods that seek to undermine the divinity of Christ. Taking liberty with history and utilizing ones freedom to write what one chooses are permissible in the United States. However, I am waiting for a film from Hollywood that similarly seeks to offend Muslims, homosexuals, ethnic minorities, or women; anything to show us how avant garde and edgy they can be! Is tolerance one-sided or has the “religion of peace” made itself clear on how it responds to heresy? Perhaps a little of both.