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EntertainmentNutz Feature Film Review

National Treasure

Release Date: November 19, 2004
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Screenwriter:
Terry Rossio, Ted Elliot, Marianne Wibberley, Cormac Wibberley
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Sean Bean, Diane Kruger, Justin Bartha, Jon Voight, Christopher Plummer
Genre: Action, Adventure
MPAA Rating: PG (for action violence and some scary images)
Official Website: NationalTreasure.movies.com

Plot Summary: Academy Award winner Nicolas Cage stars as the brilliant Benjamin Franklin Gates, third generation treasure hunter. All his life, Gates has been searching for a treasure no one believed existed: amassed through the ages, moved across continents, to become the greatest treasure the world has ever known. Hidden by our Founding Fathers, they left clues to the Treasure's location right before our eyes... from our nation's birthplace, to the nation's capital, to clues buried within the symbols on the dollar bill. Gates' life-long journey leads him to the last place anyone thought to look: a map hidden on the back of the Declaration of Independence. But what he thought was the final clue is only the beginning. Gates realizes in order to protect the world's greatest treasure, he must now do the unthinkable: steal the most revered, best guarded document in American history before it falls into the wrong hands. In a race against time, Gates must elude the FBI, stay one step ahead of his ruthless adversary (Bean), decipher the remaining clues and unlock the 2000 year-old mystery behind our greatest national treasure.

Reviewed by Peter Veugelaers © 2004
- You'll need a survivor pack

  Mystery movie National Treasure has no qualms in telling us that a conspiracy has precipitated amongst the American founding fathers but like most conspiracies is founded in storytelling fiction. Arguing from the American legacy of independence and Masonic history this blatantly concludes, with Hollywood formula cliché, a most flimsy argument for the celebration of Americana and American prosperity.

 Untold riches have settled in America, the secrets of such have come down through generations and ages, which intrepid Hardy Boy Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) is fascinated by.

 The narrowest that Gates and his father, Patrick (Jon Voight) can define its significance is by referring to the treasure’s “historical” and “intrinsic” value. The rest is all pretty vague apart from accepting at face value the far out claim.

 Even if one can appreciate broadly the ideas behind the myth, of modern prosperity linked to historical fortune, the execution is embarrassing just the same.

 Gates wants to decrypt the back of the declaration of independence as it supposedly reveals the map of this secret treasure, but which is held under tight security. (The security issues are relevant – whispers of post 9/11 – tacked on, the idea goes nowhere.). After being refused official access Gates and his sidekick, computer geek cum historically illiterate Riley (Justin Bartha) nick the document to “do right”. Getting it before others of like mind, who presumably are of no noble motive, is what inspires Gates.

 Gate’s motive in “stealing” the declaration of independence has a foreground in nobility whereas Ian Howe (Sean Bean) and his hooligan Brits, who are doing the same, pervade a threat and they would use the riches for their own selfish gain it appears.

 Plotted unimaginatively, for a fair chunk of the movie Gates deciphers clues, “that will lead to more clues”, says his father, sceptical of the end goal. Interspersed with a couple of chases, one on foot and the other involving vehicle, both of which are well below par, following the mystery logic is not required: by the moment that Gates says, “we’ll stop them”, referring to Howe and his team from stealing it first, nothing has ever been so precisely manufactured. Director Jon Turteltaub (Instinct, Disney’s The Kid) tries to keep this snappy but the material is inept.

 So it is inevitable we side with Gates in his conquest. Unlike Indiana Jones, in which this movie will receive ungrounded comparisons, Gates is not after archaeological fortune and glory like the ambiguous Jones. Gate’s one-eye is fixed wide upon being a good honest citizen of character. Jones was never so clean cut.

 But Gates and the girl (Diane Kruger), his burgeoning love interest, whom trot Washington, New York, Wall Street and down the underbelly of a church, (read: Nancy Drew meets a Hardy), behave and talk like movie land teenagers on their first date and Gates needs to impress, hardly a character I’m bubbling over to identify with.

 Gates is reminiscent of Adam West’s Batman in the 60s T.V series, unravelling clues with unabashed sincerity and nerd attentiveness with a wide eye wholesomeness and an over enthusiasm for exploring trivialities. That was deliberately camp and funny. Not so here. There is a hint of Cage-esque indulgence, but the touch does not fit the seriousness of the role. Gates is a far cry from Cage’s interesting adult character and dialogue in Leaving Las Vegas, material that has lost its grip on him with movies like The Rock and 8MM.

 Perhaps the best line in the movie is unintentionally amusing. At the start when Howe and Gates, friends at this stage, uncover a clue, “the secret of the Charlotte”, which is a boat sunk in the North Artic, of all the remote places, Howe, who has just duped Gates, quips after it has blown to shreds, “let’s go before someone sees the smoke”. No doubt Bean is good and Justin Bartha as sidekick Riley deserves his Porsche, and National Treasure reminds us that Hollywood can make good mainstream movies; this isn’t one of them. It is with Van Helsing on the dumb o’ metre movies of the year.

Featurette 1 - 'The Treasure Is Real':
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Featurette 2 - 'Freemasons':
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Featurette 3 - 'Benjamin Franklin':
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Featurette 4 - 'The Clues Around Us':
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Featurette 5 - 'The Declaration of Independence':
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Featurette 6 - 'The Knights Templar':
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Featurette 7 - 'The Money Pit':
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Featurette 8 - 'Real Locations':
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Featurette 9 - 'Secrets & Spies':
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Trailers

Trailer A:
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Trailer B:
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Trailer C:
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Exclusive TV Spot - 'Closer':
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TV Spot - 'The Secrets Will be Revealed':
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TV Spot - 'Now Playing':
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Clip - '10 Minutes of':
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8 Clips:
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The MovieNutz Store

National Treasure
National Treasure
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