- Directed by Jon Turteltaub
- November 19, 2004
A group searches for a fabled Freemason treasure using a series of clues.
It has often been said that National Treasure is Indiana Jones for the United States. And it truly is. It’s a fun historically tinged adventure with twists and turns and clues that digs into the past in a fictional way. I’m not sure how accurate some of the history that they present is so don’t take this film’s word on any history as gospel. I’m sure they played fast with some facts but even so it’s an intriguing premise. It’s just a fun well-constructed from start to finish. It seeks to entertain with a well thought out story that blends fact and fiction together effortlessly.
The United States is a fairly young nation in terms of everything. There are countries that have been around in one form or another far longer than we have been but still this movie manages to give what it presents an ancient feel like you would find in any of the Indiana Jones films. American history and fantasy are shaken up together with characters that proceed intelligently and logically.
Nick Cage is one of the great actors of our day. He has a unique style that makes everything he does entertaining even if what he’s in is not entertaining. For example he elevated Between Worlds. Awful movie but he was good in it.
Here he plays Benjamin Franklin Gates a historian who at a young age got hooked by the stories of his grandfather (Christopher Plummer) of a secret treasure hidden somewhere in the United States. What impressionable kid would not be hooked on some tall tales of big secrets and amazing treasure that were just over the next proverbial horizon? Cage keeps that energy throughout the film which also moves to the viewer.
The cast is ultimately quite small with none of them being superfluous in the story. Each significant character serves a purpose and has a job to do when it comes to telling the story. Dr. Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger) provides technical expertise as well as general knowledge. Riley Poole (Justin Bartha), while comic relief, provides assistance that Gates or Chase cannot as does Gates’s father Patrick Henry Gates (Jon Voight) who also provides some emotional conflict for Gates. FBI Agent Sadusky (Harvey Keitel) provides assistance (unknowingly at points) as well as an out for Gates’s troubles. And of course Ian (Sean Bean) not only provides the villainy but the means for Gates to actually fulfill the dream first caused by his grandfather. Not out of the goodness of his heart but that is what he does.
As much as National Treasure is a treasure hunting film it is also a great heist movie. As improbable as stealing the Declaration of Independence is, nobody could have sold it like Cage could. At least the easy and cool way that his character is able to pull it off. Truth be told Ian’s way is vastly more plausible than Ben’s is even if Ian does inadvertently give Ben help. But that is part of the fun.
Another thing that makes this movie work is that it’s done with love. It doesn’t get into hidden agendas or try to portray this country in a negative way. It’s just a thrill ride and a simple story of good versus evil. It is celebration of America’s history and of those that founded it.
National Treasure begins in the action with things escalating from there. After a brief flashback setting up the mythology, we find ourselves in a snowy waste with Ian and Benjamin working together before Ian screws him over a race against the two sides is on. The scenarios are well thought out and plausible enough that you can believe in the presented secret history that makes them possible.
National Treasure is just a fun and exhilarating adventure film. It has the feel of an Indiana Jones movie as well as the fun. If you haven’t taken the time to watch this you most certainly should.
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