One of the surprise blockbusters of 2004, National Treasure evokes images of the Indiana Jones trilogy with its adventurous search for a mysterious hidden treasure. But more than likely, the film is the result of the massive commercial success of a "quest for the holy grail" novel entitled The Da Vinci Code.
Since its release, Dan Brown's book has sold over twenty million copies, and its plot concerning a historian-turned-treasure hunter who uncovers ancient clues put in place by the Knights Templar and the Masons that hold the key to a treasure of unimaginable consequences from the era of the Crusades while doing so with the aid of a beautiful woman curator of the very archive which holds the crucial clues to its discovery, all while an evil competitor who seeks the treasure for himself follows on his heels – whew!- is a plot device that's eerily similar to Dan Brown's bestseller. But National Treasure takes place in the United States instead of Europe, so you can rest assured that the book's success had nothing to do with the movie's production (wink, wink). Anyway, regardless of its origin, National Treasure is an entertaining adventure more than worthy of a movie-goer's time.
National Treasure follows the exploits of Benjamin "Ben" Franklin Gates (Nicolas Cage), the youngest in a long line of historians who believe that America's Founding Fathers were the guardians of a massive treasure dating back to the era of the Crusades. Despite his father Patrick's (Jon Voight) pessimism, Ben investigates a clue provided by his grandfather John Adams Gates (Christopher Plummer) – a clue handed down by their distant relative Charles Carroll, one of the last surviving signatories of the Declaration of Independence. Working with his employer Ian Howe (Sean Bean), Ben unlocks the mystery of the clue which leads to his belief that a treasure map is encoded in invisible ink on the backside of the Declaration of Independence.
When Ian hatches a scheme to rob the National Archives of its most treasured artifact, Ben promptly alerts the FBI. But the feds' failure to take his claim seriously prompts Ben to devise his own plan to steal the parchment (so he can protect its secrets from Ian). Along the way, Ben convinces National Archives curator Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger) of the conspiracy, and she agrees to help him steal the Declaration of Independence. With each new success, Ben and Abigail are brought closer to the ultimate discovery. But Ian Howe and the FBI are always one step behind, and multiple dangerous obstacles remain in their way. Does a vast treasure of wealth hidden by the Founding Fathers really exist? And will Ben and Abigail find it before it falls into the wrong hands? Just as with Harry Potter and Indiana Jones, all the fun is in waiting to find out.
National Treasure marks the second mass-audience commercial success of 2004 for Walt Disney Pictures (The Incredibles being the other), and Disney teams up once again with Jerry Bruckheimer Films (with whom it worked on The Pirates Of The Caribbean) to pull off the feat. Director Jon Turteltaub (While You Were Sleeping) manages to provide a modicum of realism to a film that asks its audience time and again to ignore common sense. Sporting a screenplay that offers its hero a series of absurdly difficult puzzles which he solves with relative ease, National Treasure presents a comic book edifice that borders on the juvenile. But the film is saved by the fact that it doesn't come across in an overtly serious light, but rather as a fun and entertaining night at the movies that even offers a bit of comic relief. As such, National Treasure is a film well worth seeing. Because if anything, it's loads of fun.
Britt's Rating: 8.5/10