Review: National Treasure (2004)

National Treasure

National Treasure

Rating



Director

Jon Turteltaub

Screenplay

Jim Kouf, Cormac Wibberley, Marianne Wibberley

Length

131 min.

Starring

Nicolas Cage, Diane Kruger, Justin Bartha, Sean Bean, Jon Voight, Harvey Keitel, Christopher Plummer

MPAA Rating

PG (For action violence and some scary images)

Buy/Rent Movie

Soundtrack

Poster

Review

A grandfather’s fantasy. A father’s disbelief. A young boy’s sense of adventure. National Treasure takes us on a journey of discovery to find a lost treasure.

Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) grew up believing in an ancient treasure secreted away in the United States by the Masons, a then-secret organization that included the likes of Benjmain Franklin and George Washington. To protect this treasure, they left dozens of clues that only one brave of heart and quick of mind could uncover. Gates believes that he can uncover the treasure and gets financier Ian Howe (Sean Bean) on board.

The expedition’s first major endeavor is in the frozen tundra where they seek a lost ship that may contain the next clue. Howe betrays Gates and his assistant Riley Poole (Justin Bartha) leaving them in the ship filled with gunpowder to perish while he gets on the trail of the next clue.

A surprisingly miraculous escape leaves Ben and Riley stranded in the arctic north. When they find their way home, Ben has been clever enough to memorize the clue and is quickly on the trail to steal the Declaration of Independence which supposedly supports a secret message on the back. After the theft, he’s picked up Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger), who refuses to the let the document out of her sight, for the ride. He’s also now being trailed by his rival Howe and police detective Sadusky (Harvey Keitel) intent on retrieving the stolen Declaration.

National Treasure takes dozens of twists and turns in the vein of adventure stories like Indiana Jones. Anyone interested in United States history or archaeology should find something of interest in this film. The screenwriters takes great pains to use existing inventions and institutions and turn them into clues or secret locations in the quest for treasure. It works.

Director Jon Turteltaub knows how to turn out good populist adventure stories. Treasure is mass entertainment and while it features a great deal of smart, industrious screenwriting, it also features occasionally clunky dialogue and generally uninspired performances. Cage has done significantly better in his career but he knows how to carry an action film. He cracks clever at every opportunity but is occasionally shown up by the loveably geeky Bartha.

The rest of the cast, however, play their stereotypically-written characters without much relish. Bean was better in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring but his snide evil is moderately fun to watch. Kruger plays the typical bitchy and hysterical love interest who never grows beyond the two dimensions that are written for her. Gates’ disbelieving father Patrick is played by the out-of-place Jon Voight; Voight at least knows he shouldn’t be there and uses that to his character’s advantage.

National Treasure isn’t a film about performances, however. It’s a movie about discovery and adventure. The historical touches make the film more akin to classics like Raiders of the Lost Ark than to duds like Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (and ended simultaneously).

Review Written

March 5, 2005

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