Stunts, explosions and a treasure huntNicholas Cage can act. He did it in “Adaptation” and “Leaving Las Vegas.” But not all his roles have required such skills. Take much of the work he’s done with producer Jerry Bruckheimer ― such as “Con Air,” “The Rock” and “Gone in 60 Seconds.”
Being an action hero does take skill, but not on an Academy Award level. While Cage’s quirky roles in “Raising Arizona,” “Peggy Sue Got Married,” “Moonstruck” and “Honeymoon in Vegas” may have demonstrated that he can play arty, off-beat characters, he’s also chosen some rather dumbed-down movies.
“National Treasure” is one of them. It’s a very thinly veiled take on the bestselling book “The Da Vinci Code,” which is itself being made into a movie. Watching “National Treasure,” I thought at first that this was the movie all that talk had been about.
But while “The Da Vinci Code” was, in a way, a mystery, “National Treasure” is essentially about two hours of explosions and big stunts a la Bruckheimer.
It does have its moments of fun. In a press conference a few weeks ago in Korea, where Cage was visiting his new wife’s family with entourage in tow, his co-star Diane Krueger said the mood on the set was fun and low-key. That playful atmosphere does transfer to the screen, but the story could have used tighter editing.
Cage plays Benjamin Franklin Gates, whose family has been searching for something called the treasure of the Knights Templar. The family’s obsession has earned them ridicule in scholarly circles, but Gates is persistent.
His search takes him to the Charlotte, a 19th-century sailing ship frozen in the Arctic, where an obscure clue leads him to believe that he next needs to get hold of the Declaration of Independence. He refuses to steal the Declaration, but his teammate and financier (Sean Bean) betrays him. (It happens early in the movie, so this isn’t really a spoiler.)
So, to make sure the Declaration of Independence doesn’t fall into the wrong hands, Gates decides to steal it after all ―right out of the National Archives. Brilliant. Of course, the document is one of the most carefully guarded objects in America, but that’s of little concern to Benjamin Franklin Gates. And of course, one of the people safeguarding the document is the lovely Abigail Chase (Diane Krueger), who, of course, falls for Gates.
The plot is trite; the clues, including one found on the U.S. $100 bill, are obscure; and the loot is mystifying. It’s a great haul, but its associations with the Knights Templar, the Freemasons, Benjamin Franklin, the Declaration of Independence and the Liberty Bell, among others, seem like the fever dreams of a conspiracy theorist.
Accompanying all this is irritating dialogue from Gates’ sidekick, Riley (Justin Bartha). A few times, he comes across as endearing. But just a few times.
The movie is crafted in good fun, though; supposedly, it’s a take on old-fashioned movie capers. Kruger looks better here then she did as Helen in “Troy.” The actors are solid. “National Treasure” comes down to being a family movie that some people might appreciate.
Action / English
by Joe Yonghee