is one of those movies that are a whole lot of fun, as long as you don't
think about it too much.
a piece of eye candy, not good for you, but it tastes
just fine going down. It is a typical Jerry Bruckheimer film
values spectacle over coherence, action over plot, and explosions over
conversations. If you like that kind of stuff, you’ll love National
Treasure. If you don’t like movies which are created just for
adrenaline (and honestly, I generally don’t) then it has just enough plot,
just enough intriguing historical aspect to make it better than the average
Nicolas Cage is in that autopilot mode he goes into when he makes
Bruckheimer spectacles (see also The Rock, Gone In
Sixty Seconds and Con Air). I
don’t think it is possible for him to give a truly bad performance, but
through much of the film it does seem like he’s phoning it in. His
character of Benjamin Franklin Gates seems oddly detached, like he is
experiencing everything going on about ten seconds after the rest of the
world. It’s almost like Cage recognizes that this is just garbage, so he
isn’t going to work too hard to invest it with gravity. So while the
performance is technically proficient, it certainly isn’t going make anyone
forget Leaving Las Vegas and Adaptation.
plays a renegade fortune hunter who has been searching for a grand treasure
– one so vast that no one man could handle it – that was hidden by the
founding fathers of the United States. As a little boy, his Grandfather
(Christopher Plummer) told him the story of how his great-great-great-great
Grandfather was given the final clue to the treasure’s whereabouts by a
dying revolutionary war businessman. Ever since, the family has grown a
reputation amongst the historical community as men of La Mancha, tilting at
windmills while searching for a mythical fortune. Ben is estranged from his
father (Jon Voight), who had spent twenty years of his life searching before
finally buying into the common belief that they were on a fool’s errand, and
he hates to see his son wasting his life as he had done.
one clue that they have says that Charlotte holds the secret. Somehow Gates
finally realizes that Charlotte was not a woman, it was a ship, which
disappeared in the 1700s. Somehow he also figures that it would have ended
up at the Arctic Circle. (It is very fuzzy in the film how Cage figured
this out and where the ship would be, but then again that’s thinking of the
plot again…) So, he and his cohorts go up to the frozen tundra, walk around
for about 30 yards with metal detectors and "Eureka!" they find the
Charlotte. Luckily after over 300 years, it was only covered by about a
foot of loosely packed snow, so they dig down to find the next clue… an
inscrutable riddle that puzzles them all before about five minutes later
Gates realizes it means that the map to the treasure is on the back of the
original Declaration of Independence.
course, in one of these films it turns out that the people who they were
working with would double-cross them, so Ian (Sean Bean) and the others
decide to leave Gates and his friend (Justin Bartha) to die in the frozen
wreck as they head down to Washington DC to steal the document. Gates'
intelligence allows for him and his friend to survive, so they also go to the
nation’s capital to try to convince the National Gallery that the document
is in danger of theft.
talks with Dr. Abigail Chase, the comely young woman who is in charge of
antiquities for the museum. She is torn
– part of her thinks that Gates is
insane, but another part is charmed by the brash young treasure hunter’s
passion for history. Diane Kruger is very good and very sexy as this
character, although you spend the entire movie thinking that she seems
awfully young not only to be a doctor, but also then to have worked her way
up the government ranks into such a vitally important job. But, again, that
is thinking about the story, which is not part of the National Treasure
Still, she refuses to allow Gates to see the parchment, so he decides to
steal it rather than allow Ian to get ahold of it and probably destroy this
priceless historical artifact. This leads to a pair of theft attempts on
the National Gallery at the same time, with Cage eventually beating Ian out
for the prize. Dr. Chase is drawn into the plot by accident, but comes
along to guarantee the safety of the Declaration. This leads to a series of
riddles that lead them to Philadelphia, New York and Boston. The founding
fathers apparently had a lot of time on their hands to come up with these
labyrinthine clues, traps, locks and secret chambers. It’s amazing they had
the extra time to win the Revolutionary War.
won’t tell you if they find the treasure, because that is half the fun of
the film. I will just tell you that before the climax, you get a whole
series of chases, gunfights and death-defying stunts. Which is all that
most people ask for in a film like this.
is a transparent attempt to beat the similarly plotted
best-selling novel The DaVinci Code into the multiplexes. (Ron
Howard is directing a movie version of that book with Tom Hanks and
Audrey Tautou due for a 2005 release.) While I can't in all conscience say that
National Treasure is a good film, I also can't lie and say that I didn't
kind of enjoy it. (11/04)
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Posted: December 16, 2004.