National Treasure

The adventurous heist film National Treasure entertains the ridiculous yet still manages to satisfy with some clever problem solving and likeable characters. Nicolas Cage plays, Ben Gates, a self proclaimed treasure seeker motivated by personal vindication instead of riches.

Ben sees his chance to finally obtain a special treasure passed on throughout history and fulfill the destiny of his family, played by acting veterans Jon Voight (father) and Christopher Plummer (grandfather). Voight embodies the negative aspects of Ben’s exploits as his supportive yet weary father Patrick while Plummer begins the film telling young Ben the background story to the treasure.

Sean Bean (Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring) plays Ian Howe, the antagonist who matches Ben’s clever escapes with lots of goons and quick transportation capabilities thanks to his unlimited sources.

Justin Bartha plays Ben’s wise cracking partner in crime Riley Poole. He gets all the one liners even makes fun of the hackneyed idea of stealing the Declaration of Independence among “guards… video monitors… and little kids on their eighth grade field.”

German actress Diane Kruger (Troy) plays Ben’s love interest Abigail Chase. Harvey Keitel plays Sadusky, a small role as a government agent who become involved in the treasuring hunting.

Repeatability and familiar formulas used by filmmakers work, but are often annoying. Benjamin Franklin Gates…John Adams Gates…OK, we get it. The family has a connection with the Founding Fathers of the United States.

The likeable characters make up for the hanky plot points through their dialogue. You never feel that the characters are physically up for the challenges, especially against seemingly experienced chasers like Ian’s goons, but moments like the verbal exchange between Ben and Abigail as they change clothes are really memorable.

The action scenarios are fairly tame throughout a long 131 minute run time, but the romance, humor and drama offset some of the weaknesses. Formulaic, yet enjoyable, and surprisingly educational. Recommended with reservations (**1/2 out of four stars) and rated PG for mild violence and a few scares. Followed by the sequel National Treasure: Book of Secrets.

Copyright © Michael Siebenaler

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