National Treasure is probably the film I have seen, in whole or in part, more than any other movie. Every time it comes on television, it’s the perfect standby to turn to. It’s clean, amusing, exciting, and complex enough to deserve repeated viewings, an all-around satisfying helping of Indiana Jones-lite.
As the walking encyclopedia Benjamin Franklin Gates, Nicholas Cage spouts history, conspiracy, and American values, the kind of treasure-hunting idealist worth rooting for. His dutiful theft of the Declaration of Independence allows the audience to enjoy the gadgetry and cleverness of a heist film, while retaining the confidence that he’s still the good guy. This draws parallels with Jerry Bruckheimer’s other franchise Pirates of the Caribbean, as well as the “treason” of the Founding Fathers, as Ben feels called to attempt what is technically illegal to accomplish what is right. Justin Bartha is lovably nerdy as Riley, and Diane Kruger is intelligent and lovely as Dr. Abigail Chase. Sean Bean plays the cunning villain Ian and is actually a clever mental match for Ben, unlike Ed Harris in the sequel who let Ben do all the work. Other pleasing roles are filled by Jon Voight as Ben’s nay-saying father and Harvey Keitel as a Sam Gerard wannabe from the FBI. Also, (yet another Lost alert!) one of Keitel’s team is played by Mark Pellegrino, a.k.a. the mysterious island-dwelling Jacob.
The Mason conspiracy at the core of the treasure’s origins is hardly believable, but the film manages to still be a stimulating history lesson in its details, ranging from the cryptic clue from the Charlotte to the author of the Silence Dogood letters. These lesser-known facts lend credence to the film as a whole, though the chase for the treasure is such an entertaining thrill ride that any inaccurate or unrealistic elements can and should be ignored for fun’s sake. With plenty of twists and turns, both action-packed and perceptive, National Treasure is still a film I can see over and over.Best line: (butcher lady in a market) “If you’re not a steak, you don’t belong here.” (Abigail, hiding from Ian’s goon) “I’m just trying to hide from my ex-husband.” (butcher lady) “Who, Baldie?” (Abigail) “Yes.” (butcher lady) “Honey, stay as long as you like.” Rank: 58 out of 60
© 2014 S. G. Liput
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