Rakesh's movie talk

National Treasury (2005)

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Directed by John Turteltaub
Written by Jim Kouf and Cormac Wibberley & Marianne Wibberley (based on story by Jim Kouf and Oren Aviv Charles Segars
Starring Nicholas Cage, Justin Bartha, Diane Krueger, Sean Bean, Harvey Keitel, Jon Voight and Christopher Plummer.


Jerry Bruckheimer - the name that guarantees mindless action, and excitement and sometimes, a stinkers or two (think Pearl Harbor). Regardless of the subject matter of his movies, which are shameless, non-veiled, moneymaking entertainers, the films had always attracted big stars. Witness names like this: Denzel Washington, Gene Hackman, Sean Connery, Ed Harris, Nicholas Cage, Bruce Willis, etc. His film appeals to all: white collars, blue collars, rednecks, the yellow bellied, black hearted, green eyed, etc. All colours, you name it, he can entertain them. Not sure about green eyes though. Must check with John Carpenter.


Bruckheimer’s latest offering is National Treasure, which reunites him with Nic Cage, star of his wildly successful offerings Con-Air and The Rock. Though this film has often been compared to Indiana Jones adventures, its just another patriotic, frantic chase story.


Cage is Benjamin Franklin Gates. Through his grandfather (the venerable Christopher Plummer) the little Ben Gates learns of a certain secrets that relates to Freemasonry, the American independence, the Egyptian pharaoh, the knights, and ultimately the TREASURE! Next thing you know, boy Gates grows up to be the obsessive and controlled adult Gates (the technique reminds you of old Tamil and Hindi movie though), whom, with a bunch of experts comprising of sidekick Riley (Justin Bartha) and tough guy Ian Howe (Sean Bean) and his bunch of equally tough helpers.


Gates manages to find the first clue, the Charlotte - a ship stranded in the Arctic. A clue is found in the ship and it leads to the Declaration of Independence. Gates hesitates to pursue further, but Ian insists on err...borrowing the ancient document. Tempers flare, and both goes on different ways. Knowing well that the Declaration might fall on the wrong guys' hands.


The first half an hour is typical Bruckheimer (I keep mentioning him, but we need to credit the director, Turteltaub too). You get the rousing score (so remindful of Crimson Tide and The Rock), the explosion, the zig-zag cinematography and all. You can breath easy, sit relaxedly, and even catch a couple of winks as you know where the movie is headed and you know that you will have no expectations to be disappointed with. But things do take a different turn after that.


I am not saying that you will get some kind of awakening here. Nosireee. Its the same sampled action cliches all along, but they do not bore. It takes us to one sub-adventure to another (yes, ala Indy, but the comparison stops there) and it never stops right at the climax. A good popcorn flick, as I told a relative of mine.


Cage is never more comfortable in this kind of role. Here, he is much more subtle. Obsessive? Yes. But a more responsible citizen of the US of A. Dianne Krueger, who plays an academician Abigail Chase, does not disappoint either. She is much more interesting here than she was in Troy. The script did a great wonder as to how someone who opposes such crusade gets sucked right in and becomes a useful aide. She is never an obstacle in the narrative, sans the scene where her cleavage is more prominent than the found clue. Sigh.


As for others, Justin Bartha is great, making great use of the dialogues given and a good sign of talents to come in lead roles in the future. And Sean Bean is Sean Bean. No matter how the roles are written, he makes it his own. Sometimes I wonder if he will ever play an important lead role. The guy deserves it. He is such a great talent and Hollywood has no idea how to use him. When they want a bad guy with English accent, they make use of some of the greatest contemporary character actors, like Jeremy Irons, Alan Rickman and now, Sean Bean.


Otherwise, everything else is made to tailor the viewers’ comfort. All your senses are not violated. Its business as usual for Bruckheimer. I have been avoiding some action movies of late, and seeing this is quite refreshing. But I don't think I want to own it when it comes out in discs.


Oh yeah, there’re other great character actors like Harvey Keitel and Jon Voight. Basically wasted, but hey, having a big box office movie in their resume is good, and can get them better offers in the future. The same goes to the actors with English accent.


Speaking of English accent. Can Hollywood for once get rid of the idea that most bad guys have to have English accent.. But I guess it has some significance here, as the story relates a lot to the American vs British segment of the country’s history.


Aaaand, speaking of history, non-US folks like us can benefit from the hefty dose of US history in this movie. It made me realize of something – like their successors, the American leaders are always secretive, paranoid, not sharing, or even caring. Patriotism was all, blind patriotism. Anyone want to argue that, please talk to our (meaning Malaysian) ex PR guy, Dr. Mahathir.


I mean, come on. You are not gonna take some movie freak like me seriously, right? Hehe. Anyone looking for me, especially with some uniform and badges, I ain’t home.