Cage Leads Search for 'National Treasure'
[DVD Review] The search for the ultimate treasure in history
Title: National Treasure
Directed by: Jon Turteltaub
Starring: Nicolas Cage (Benjamin Gates), Diane Kruger (Abigail Chase), Jon Voight (Patrick Gates), Justin Bartha (Riley Poole), Sean Bean (Ian Howe), Harvey Keitel (Sadusky), Christopher Plummer (John Gates)
Running Time: 1 hr., 40 mins.
Rick Capone (racapone)
Over the years, Nicolas Cage has been very successful in high-profile, big-budget action films. "Con Air", "The Rock", "Gone in Sixty Seconds", and "Face/Off" have all been entertaining and fun to watch thanks to the dry wit and talent of Cage, and movie goers have agreed, flocking to those films in record numbers.
Now with the release of "National Treasure," Cage has another fun, entertaining action film to add to his impressive resume. Add to that fact that one of the producers is action-film, mega producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and you have all the ingredients of a big-time hit that movie goers are sure to enjoy.
The film plot goes like this... Sometime during the Crusades, the Knights Templar collected a treasure so big, it was more than one man should have. With the help of the Masons, the treasure was hidden, moved, then hidden again down through time.
Somehow the treasure ended up in the American Colonies, and when the colonists prepared to go to war with England, the members of the Masons, who it seems, were some of America's Founding Fathers, hid the treasure one more time. However, after they hid it, they left some clues on how to find it -- clues that were hidden in plain site, but would take someone very smart, or very lucky, to finally unravel them to find the treasure.
Flash forward to the present... Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nicolas Cage) is a treasure hunter who is continuing the tradition of his father, Patrick Henry Gates (Jon Voight), and grandfather, John Adams Gates (Christopher Plummer), and searching for that legendary treasure. He wants to find it and share it with the world.
As the film opens, Gates has teamed with another treasure seeker, Ian Howe (Sean Bean), and together they uncover a key clue -- a clue that tells them that the map to the treasure lies on the back of the Declaration of Independence. When Howe states that they will have to steal the document, Cage realizes that his partner is really just a criminal and the two part ways and continue the search separately.
Gates, along with his trusty sidekick, Riley Poole (Justin Bartha), begin to plan how to uncover the map on the Declaration of Independence. At first they try reasoning with the powers that be in the U.S. government, including National Archivist Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger). All of them, however, dismiss Gates and Poole as nut-cases.
So with reasoning ruled out, Gates decides that they must steal the Declaration themselves so that they will not only be protecting it from Howe, but also so that they can once and for all determine if there really is a map hidden on the back of the document.
They make their plans and the heist is on, which does not go exactly to plan as Chase gets caught up in the action and ends up going along for the ride.
All of this, of course, leads to the uncovering and unraveling of more clues, which leads to the bad guys and the FBI chasing after them, which leads to even more action and more fun as they continue their quest for the ultimate prize -- the treasure.
While this film is entertaining and a lot of fun to watch, viewers should not go in expecting the kind of action sequences seen in any of the Indiana Jones movies, such as "Raiders of the Lost Ark", which was directed by Steven Spielberg and starred Harrison Ford.
The action is, however, as well done and enjoyable as the old TV series, "Relic Hunter", which starred Tia Carrere as Sydney Fox, and Christian Anholt as Nigel Bailey, her loyal assistant. It is the kind of action that is more low key and subdued, yet still fun and exciting to watch, which is all thanks to the talents of Cage.
In this film, Cage does a great job humanizing Gates, the action hero he is portraying. He is not a big, muscular guy who can leap over buildings or deck any of the big, burly, bad guys in Howe's gang. Instead, he uses his head to out-think the bad guys. The "inside joke" is that he is just an every-day guy out searching for a legendary treasure that has eluded his family for years. And, of course, when all else fails and the bad guys or FBI are closing in, he can always out run them.
Bartha was great casting as the likeable, brainiac-sidekick, Riley. Much like Nigel in "Relic Hunter," he is a bumbling physical specimen, but a whiz at using computers. He also provides many of the film's comedic lighter moments, with great timing in his delivery.
As Chase, Kruger does a good job in not becoming just another beautiful, helpless female who falls for the hero. Instead, she is part of the new breed of females in action movies -- intelligent, athletic, and someone who can hold her own against the bad guys. So, after getting caught up in the heist, and once she figures out exactly who are the good guys and who are the bad guys, she becomes part of the ultimate solution instead of just part of the background.
Bean is probably the weakest link in this film because he just doesn't come off mean enough to be the bad guy. While he does do a few "evil things" in his quest to make sure Cage doesn't beat him to uncovering the treasure, he just isn't convincing as a bad guy.
In a small, but well put together part, Harvey Keitel does a wonderful job as Sadusky, the lead FBI agent on the case. He only shows up a few times, but his subtle, calm portrayal of an FBI agent is a welcome contrast to the usual over-the-top, take-charge-no-matter-what, FBI agents usually portrayed in film.
Finally, while their parts are small, Voight and Plummer make the most of their screen time as Gates' father and grandfather. While Voight does get a good bit of screen time, Plummer is only there at the start, but his time on screen is memorable.
One other thing that is well done in this film are the beautiful, aerial shots of the cities Gates and Company travel to in their search, including Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York City. These are three of America's greatest cities, and director Jon Turteltaub captures the buildings, the landmarks and the beauty of these cities in all of their glory. Very well done.
While "National Treasure" isn't an award winning film, thanks to the talent of Cage and the entire cast, it is pure, enjoyable escapism, and definitely a fun way to spend a couple hours with some friends.
The original movie review appeared in the South Marion Citizen, a weekly newspaper in Ocala, Florida, USA.
The extras on this DVD are part of a interesting, multilevel treasure hunt. In the first bonus level, the viewer looks for clues that will lead them to the second bonus level. It's fun, plus the bonus features are enjoyable as well.
Bonus Level 1
* A making of featurette that shows what it was like to make the movie, as well as a look at some of the locations where the movie was shot.
* Two deleted scenes that did not make the movie.
* A look at the creation of the movie's opening scene, with director's audio commentary.
* The movie's alternate ending, with director's commentary. Actually, this alternate ending was the original ending of the movie until Turteltaub changed it.
Bonus Level 2
* A look at the real world of treasure hunting.
* A fun feature that looks at the history of cryptography and gives viewers the chance to solve three puzzles.
* A short featurette on the Knights Templar.
Note: The DVD Extras listed are for the USA release of the film. They might not be included in other country's releases.
**interesting... it's not often that Sean is accused of NOT being "mean enough"....