FBMR - National Treasure
Film-Buff Movie Reviews


NATIONAL TREASURE (2004) ***

Film, television, and literature seem to be banking on the popularity of brain-teasers, puzzles, scavenger hunts, and world-wide races. In literature one of the highest-selling best-sellers of late was Dan Brownís "The Da Vinci Code" where codes and clues in Da Vinci paintings lead to the discovery of a religious mystery protected by a secret society for two thousand years. On television, the Emmy Award-winning "The Amazing Race" has teams racing around the world searching for clues and performing tasks in order to win the million dollar prize. This leads me to NATIONAL TREASURE, a film revolving around the myth of a lost treasure, where the founding fathers of America have left a series of encoded brain-teasers that lead from one clue to the next on the hunt for this mysterious loot.

Treasure hunter, Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage), has been on the trail of the mythical treasure, first recounted to him by his grandfather (Christopher Plummer). Benís father, Patrick (Jon Voight), too pursued this treasure for many years before retiring/giving up hope, frustrated that the closer he seemed to get, the further the treasure seemed, leading him only to another clue. The Gates family has become a laughing stock whom many consider eccentric conspiracy theorists. It isnít until Ben, with much help from his British financier and partner, Ian Howe (Sean Bean), finds the long sought-after ship, The Charlotte, do pieces of the puzzle on the hunt start emerging at a quick pace. When this next clue points to the possibility of another clue on the back of the Declaration of Independence, Ben knows that it will be extremely difficult to gain access to the document, especially since his intensions cannot be proven before hand. Howe, on the other hand, is much more zealous and decides to go it alone and steal the Declaration of Independence. Knowing what Howe is planning, the only way Ben can keep the document safe is to steal it first, and keep it out of Howeís hands.

Without any previous mention of competition or threat from another group of treasure hunters, it seemed a little implausible that Ben Gates should be such a risk-taking, life-endangering daredevil. Although, itís not any more improbable than having archaeologist Indiana Jones go from classroom lecturer to death-defying, macho adventurer. And who didnít find the Indiana Jones series exhilarating fun? NATIONAL TREASURE doesnít quite live up to the Lucas/Spielberg adventure series, but it comes close. It has enough action to entertain, a quick enough pace to keep the race-enthusiasts happy, enough code-cracking to puzzle oneís brain, and enough of a sense of humour thanks mainly to Voight, and Ben's assistant, Riley Poole (Justin Bartha) to keep everything light-hearted. Is it far fetched? Sure, but itís all in good fun. And a special feature on the DVD release is an interesting alternate ending.

Itís not a brilliant film, so if you donít see it you wonít be missing much. But those who do chose to see it, knowing what to expect, should enjoy themselves and chuckle at the implausibility of it all.