According to National Treasure, there is an invisible map inscribed on the back of the Declaration of Independence. This leads to hidden treasure which existed before the Egyptian Pyramids, even survived the Crusades and was eventually found and hidden by the Founding Fathers of the New World after the Revolutionary War against the British. Of course it’s a Jerry Bruckheimer production so it’s complete fantasy but it’s surprisingly exiting stuff nevertheless.
Nicolas Cage plays Benjamin Franklin Gates, a sort of modern day Indiana Jones (eye of a possible franchise here perhaps?) who is on a personal quest to find the elusive treasure by tracking and solving an abundance of elaborate clues that lead to its whereabouts. You see, Gates is a descendant of a family of treasure hunters and has been intrigued ever since his grandfather (Christopher Plummer) told him childhood stories about the treasure despite major reservations by his sceptical father, played by Jon Voight.
Sean Bean plays Ian Howe, the clichd English baddie who is a former associate of Gates. He is on a mission to steal the Declaration from an exhibition in the National Archives so he can view the map that will hopefully take him to the secret treasure. The only way Ben can protect it is if he steals the Declaration first – so he does. It becomes more complicated for Ben when the reluctant exhibition curator, Dr. Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger) is forced to join him on the run.
So it becomes a violent, harsh mission for Ben, his partner Riley Poole (Justin Bartha) and Abigail to keep the Declaration safe but track down the treasure and avoid being captured by Ian and the FBI, headed by a stern Harvey Keitel.
A Jerry Bruckheimer production staring Nicolas Cage, Harvey Keitel and Sean Bean which has a PG certificate? Surely that can’t be right? As it’s a Disney film the action is kept relatively clean, inoffensive and bloodless but it is still a really fun ride, if a little overlong.
Nicolas Cage offers some good moments but he fails to show the charm, charisma and humour that Harrison Ford has in the Indian Jones trilogy. Justin Bartha is irritatingly sarcastic as Ben’s partner in justifiable theft’ while Diane Kruger is simply stunning to look at, but there is no chemistry between her brainy character Abigail and Cage’s obsessed, equally clever, workaholic Gates. Despite attempts by the script to bring them close together, it just doesn’t work – even with the ending as it is.
The action pieces are bland and have predictable outcomes – although there are some above average attempts at excitement – but this doesn’t stop the climax from being tense. However, the constant, absurd clues become tedious and frustrating as hope of our heroes finding the treasure seems to diminish and the film starts to drag.
However, the weakest part of the film is Sean Bean, perhaps because he’s played the bad guy so many times in American films that it becomes boring watching him act in the same type of role.
National Treasure is completely farcical. It’s a typically stupid Hollywood make-believe popcorn movie, but it’s passable. Take it with a pinch of salt and you should enjoy the journey.