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1 item from 2004

National Treasure

10 December 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

If you're going to tell a wildly implausible tale of fortune hunting and unlikely heroes, you could do worse than "National Treasure". Mind you, there is not a single moment in the movie that isn't complete nonsense. But with a script decked out with fascinating historical tidbits from the American Revolution and Masonic lore, set pieces in and around numerous East Coast monuments and historical buildings and a tongue thrust firmly in cheek, "National Treasure" is an above-average popcorn movie.

Starring Nicolas Cage and directed by Jon Turteltaub with more of an eye toward comedy and character byplay than is usual for a Jerry Bruckheimer production, the movie relies less on action than mystery and suspense. Other than the use of historical locations rarely seen onscreen, the movie is instantly forgettable. Yet it should make a pleasant diversion during the holiday season and could give the Walt Disney Co. a much needed respite from a truly unmemorable year at the boxoffice.

The story and script by five writers (assisted by even more uncredited scribes) imagines an American family named Gates has been cursed since post-Revolutionary times by the secret knowledge that the United States of America harbors the legendary Knights Templar treasure, handed down from the Crusaders to other grave robbers and thieves until it found its way to the rebel colonies.

It falls to the current Gates family member named Ben (Cage) -- that's Benjamin Franklin Gates, if you will -- to discover that a treasure map of sorts exists on the back of the Declaration of Independence. Look, if you don't mind being ridiculous, why not? Watch for the next Bruckheimer movie in which the Magna Carta offers clues to the hideout of space aliens.

The heist of America's most prized historical document and the hunt for the treasure finds various dogs nipping at Ben's heels. A group of baddies headed by Sean Bean will stop at nothing to claim the treasure. An FBI team lead by Harvey Keitel is desperate to nab America's most-wanted thief. Ben can only rely on his trusted tech wizard Justin Bartha, National Archives conservator Diane Kruger and, later, must ask his reluctant and disparaging dad, Jon Voight, for help.

The chase leads from an old ship frozen in the Arctic wilderness to the National Archive, Library of Congress and other monuments in Washington, D.C., then on to the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall in Philadelphia and Trinity Church in Wall Street and catacombs beneath Manhattan. Clues come from objects ranging from a Meershaum pipe to a $100 bill.

The production hits on all cylinders from start to finish with Caleb Deschnel's crisp cinematography and Norris Spencer's design opening up marvelous spaces for the characters to rush through while Trevor Rabin's insistent music urges the action on. Unfortunately, the third act settles for conventional hokum involving collapsing wooden stairways and Indiana Jones archeological tricks that betray the wit and cleverness of the earlier sequences.

Similarly, Cage's character, that of a nerdy, obsessive conspiracy theorist who is actually right, show more promise in the early going than he later delivers. Only Bartha and Voight have actual characters to play while Kruger supplies energy and beauty but in a role not fully fleshed out by the many writers.


Buena Vista Pictures

Walt Disney Pictures in association with Jerry Bruckheimer Films


Director: Jon Turteltaub

Writers: Jim Kouf, Marianne Wibberley, Cormaca Wibberley

Story by: Jim Kouf, Oren Aviv, Charles Segars

Producers: Jerry Bruckheimer, Jon Turteltaub

Executive producers: Mike Stenson, Chad Oman, Christina Steinberg, Barry Waldmana, Oren Aviv, Charles Segars

Director of photography: Caleb Deschanel

Production designer: Norris Spencer

Music: Trevor Rabin

Costumes: Judianna Makovsky

Editor: William Goldenberg


Ben Gates: Nicolas Cage

Sadusky: Harvey Keitel

Patrick Gates: Jon Voight

Abigail Chase: Diane Kruger

Ian Howe: Sean Bean

Riley: Justin Bartha

John Adams Gates: Christopher Plummer

MPAA rating PG

Running time -- 130 minutes »

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