National Treasure (2004) Review

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National Treasure

Time: 131 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] contains low level violence
Cast:
Nicolas Cage as Benjamin Franklin Gates
Sean Bean as Ian Howe
Diane Kruger as Dr. Abigail Chase
Justin Bartha as Riley Poole
Jon Voight as Patrick Henry Gates
Harvey Keitel as Agent Peter Sadusky
Christopher Plummer as John Adams Gates
Director: Jon Turteltaub

Modern treasure hunters, led by archaeologist Ben Gates, search for a chest of riches rumored to have been stashed away by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin during the Revolutionary War. The chest’s whereabouts may lie in secret clues embedded in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, and Gates is in a race to find the gold before his enemies do.

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I remember watching National Treasure for the first time, I was quite young at the time, and it was the first film I saw that had Nicolas Cage in it. I enjoyed it but wondered how it would be on rewatch, and whether it would still hold up over a decade and a half later. Thankfully, I think I can say that it does. While its not great, National Treasure is still a lot of fun to watch.

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The story is a fairly interesting and fun adventure with a lot of excitement throughout, helped by the fast pace. You’re right there with the main characters as they make discoveries and solve puzzles in order to unravel the central mystery. As far as adventure movies go, it occasionally meets its aspirations, but could’ve been better. As it is, it’s a solid riff on much better action adventure movies. Its not just limited to the main characters exploring tombs, there’s also a conspiracy aspect, as well as a heist aspect. The history and science are definitely messy and aren’t realistic, but it is an absurd movie overall. One of the things most known about this movie is that a key part involves Nicolas Cage having to steal the Declaration of Independence, and that is gloriously silly as that sounds. Even some of the logic of the plot can be hilarious. Nicolas Cage and Sean Bean start off hunting treasure together, but they separate when Bean wants to steal the Declaration of Independence and Cage doesn’t want to. So when Bean decides to go get it himself, Cage decides to go and steal it first. Thankfully, National Treasure has the right tone, not taking itself too seriously, but not going too overboard and risking becoming a self parody.

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The cast are quite enjoyable. Nicolas Cage made for a charismatic, likable and entertaining lead as Ben Gates. Its definitely not one of his craziest performances in some of his other movies like Face/Off, but he gave his character a lot of energy, and is fun to watch. Diane Kruger is also good, and Justin Bartha is solid as the comic relief with some great comedic timing. There are also other great actors who have parts to play in this, including Jon Voight, Harvey Keitel and Christopher Plummer. Sean Bean is the villain and while the writing for him is nothing special, he does deliver on his part as an antagonist.

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If there’s an aspect of National Treasure that I wished was better, it was the direction. Jon Turteltaub’s work is decent, but it needed something more. The action is relatively fun, there are some good environments sets and designs, and the score from Trevor Rabin is good (especially the catchy main theme). Its just that there’s nothing distinct about this movie on a directing or style level that separates it from other similar movies.

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National Treasure is comparable to The Mummy movies starring Brendan Fraser, not the best action-adventure movies (i.e. not on the level of Indiana Jones), but nonetheless very entertaining for what it is. It’s a fun ride that doesn’t take itself too seriously, helped by the solid cast led by Nicolas Cage. If you haven’t seen it already, I think its worth checking out.

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