Rating: 3/4 (Cheesy, but interesting)
The Da Vinci Code is not the first commercial movie to put the Vatican or the origin of Christianity on the pulpit. The Body starring Antonio Banderas and Olivia Williams, released in 2001, also does the same by unearthing the body of Jesus Christ.
The Body is based on the novel of the same name by Richard Sapir. Dr. Sharon (Olivia Williams) is an Israeli archaeologist who discovers a rich man's tomb while digging inside the city of Jerusalem. The tomb is empty, but a skeleton is found in an adjacent hidden room. The rusty holes in the bones, the markings in the skull of this skeleton and its dating lead her to suspect that this could be the body of Christ. On learning about this discovery, the Vatican sends Father Matt Gutierrez (Antonio Banderas) to Jerusalem to investigate into these findings and find a way to prove that it is not the Christ. For if the body were to be of Christ, that would disprove the resurrection of Christ, on which Christianity is based.
Though Olivia is an agnostic Jew, her fellow countrymen are not. They attack her and Gutierrez for opening up a tomb. Also, the Palestinians get interested in the bones. They believe that by getting their hands on the bones they can gain the upper hand in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Caught in the middle of this, Gutierrez is also forced to question his own faith in God.
The movie presents an interesting premise, but in a slow, controlled manner, unlike the I-cannot-understand-what-is-happening lightning pace of The Da Vinci Code. Antonio Banderas looks young and charming here, but his European accent sounds pretty fake. Olivia Williams is a picture of grace, but is given some ridiculous lines to spout. A lot of the scenes, including the climax are pretty cheesy. But, I loved the background music (of which there is a lot) which sounds exotic and mellow, filled with riffs of the music from the Middle East region. Also, most of the movie is actually shot in Jerusalem, Israel and Middle East regions, which is rare in Hollywood movies. Those city scenes filled with Middle East people, shops, hoardings, signs, furniture, cafes and the general hubbub are fascinating to watch. The Body is a cheesy, but interesting movie.