National Treasure (2004)
Main cast: Nicolas Cage (Ben Gates), Diane Kruger (Abigail Chase), Justin Bartha (Riley Poole), Sean Bean (Ian Howe), Jon Voight (Patrick Gates), Harvey Keitel (Sadusky), and Christopher Plummer (John Adams Gates)
Director: Jon Turteltaub


Imagine this, if you will. The Founding Fathers of America had hidden a great treasure somewhere in the USA and left behind clues in dollar bills, letters, and even at the back of the Declaration of Independence. Apparently this treasure is seized from the Middle East during the Crusades by the Templars and somehow the Masons got hold of it. Aha, so the rightful owners of the Great Treasure is the people of Jerusalem, right? Nope, Jon Turteltaub is shaking his head. Finders keepers, I suppose.

I do like the idea of this premise, as ridiculous as it seems. I also like the concept that goes into the creation of the hero, Benjamin Franklin Gates, who speaks and dreams of a world idealized by the vision and principles of the Founding Fathers. I like the scavenger hunt and for a long time, I am enjoying this movie thoroughly as Ben and his rather dim-witted assistant Riley try to protect the Declaration of Independence and take a look at the map imprinted at the back of it (Ben's adventures and clue-huntings have led him to this latest clue to the Great Treasure) by stealing it before Ben's rival Ian Howe gets his hands on it. Because Ian is obviously British, his getting his hands on the treasure is an absolutely horrible thing to contemplate while Ben, the American, will naturally use the Treasure for good. Although what that good is, I have no idea. Maybe he'll buy Jon Voight an island to retire to so that Mr Voight will never show up in a movie again.

A movie with Jon Voight in it is like a bed with a stone buried inside the softness. No matter how great a movie is, the moment Mr Voight shows up with his face and sneer that are just begging to be smacked, the movie automatically turns into a Jon Voight hatefest. Sean Bean on the other hand isn't stretching his abilities as his role is that of yet another sneering bad guy. Diane Kruger doesn't even bother to mask her accent as she plays the National Archivist that is inadvertently dragged along the treasure hunt, maybe because she knows that her role is not worth the effort. On the other hand, Nicholas Cage seems to be having the time of his life playing the idealistic genius Ben Gates, so good for him.

While the movie is an enjoyable if silly affair, the last half hour is a painfully trite and formulaic showdown scene so blatantly generic that I am actually stunned to watch it unfurl before me on the screen. It's not a bad way to bring about an exciting climax to the movie, I suppose, but after the absurd yet inventive scavenger hunt that Ben and company take me along for a ride with, the movie's unapologetic descend into absolute triteness is disappointing, like a punch to my gut with Mr Turteltaub cackling in my ears, "See ya, sucker, thanks for playing!"

National Treasure could have been a better enjoyable no-brainer fun-time movie were not for the dull final half-hour. Oh, well.

Rating: 76


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