National Treasure (2004)
October 24, 2020 1:54 AM - Subscribe

A historian races to find the legendary Templar Treasure before a team of mercenaries.

Historian and code-breaker Ben Gates has been searching his whole life for a rumored treasure dating back to the creation of the United States. Joining an expedition led by fellow treasure hunter Ian Howe, Gates finds an ice-locked Colonial ship in the Arctic Circle that contains a clue linking the treasure to the Declaration of Independence. But when Howe betrays him, Gates has to race to get to the document ahead of his so-called colleague.

Danielle Solzman: Philadelphia is where history begins to merge with fiction. There happens to be a major problem with the film taking the idea of the time on shown on the $100 bill. The first such printing of the bill with the Independence Hall design wouldn’t be printed until 1929. On top of this, there was no clock as they make their way to the steeple. This change did not take place until 1828. All the clues were said to have been forgotten by the time that Carroll passed on the secret to the elder Gates. This doesn’t make the film any less of the fun adventure that it is but there are certainly some issues with the choices being made. One just needs to suspend their disbelief here to enjoy it.

Mick LaSalle: Critics will slam "National Treasure" for not being good, but audiences will probably like it for not being bad. It has no ambition, little sense and false sentiment, but it does have velocity, high spirits and scale. It also has Nicolas Cage, either in a toupee or I want to know what he's been rubbing on his head. And it has Diane Kruger, looking a lot more like Helen of Troy here than in "Troy."

In short, it's a Jerry Bruckheimer movie, and the fact that just saying that means something ... well, that means something. Like the moguls of old, Bruckheimer ("Con Air," "The Rock") is a producer with a signature style, one characterized mainly by the assumption that the audience is very, very impatient. So things keep happening, even if they shouldn't happen, each moment topping the next. Call him lowbrow, but nobody falls asleep during a Bruckheimer movie, and that includes critics.

In addition to being lively, "National Treasure" wins points for geniality. There's a relaxed air about it, despite the piling on of story, and a family-friendly feeling about it, despite the frequent threat of violence. Cage floats through the proceedings as Gates, the last of a long line of treasure hunters.

debbie lynn elias
: Jon Turtelaub’s direction seems off-base and at times haphazard, perhaps due to the implausibility of the script. Despite this, however, the film is tightly and succinctly edited thanks to William Goldenberg. But the real beauty comes at the hands of cinematographer Caleb Deschanel who provides a richly textured, vividly shot film that does particularly well in showcasing the historical sites and scenes in the film.

While not the greatest film of the year, it is definitely one with a considerable amount of intrigue (although unbelievable – or is it??) and action, not to mention some actual history lessons, all of which combine to make for a fun-filled, exciting Saturday afternoon matinee guaranteed to add to Disney’s own treasure vault.

posted by Carillon (7 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I didn't see this when it came out, and for years I ignored it on cable, assuming I'd hate it. But then at some point I kept seeing gif-sets of the movie on tumblrs I lurked on, and I had to see what the fuss was about. And, yeah. It's like that Ebert review of The Mummy -- this is not a 'good' movie, but it sure is fun to watch.
posted by oh yeah! at 2:58 PM on October 24, 2020 [3 favorites]

It definitely falls into the Mummy category for me. Is it good? I mean I don't care it's a bunch of fun and hangs together just enough to move from set piece to set piece in a fun propulsive way.
posted by Carillon at 3:28 PM on October 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

Justin Bartha as the comic relief quietly carries a lotttt of the weight in this movie.

I guess I agree with a lot of that Mick LaSalle quote. "Genial" and "safe" are very good words for it. It's never great but it is surprisingly not awful throughout. It feels like it should be awful. My spouse and I joked about Turteltaub as the best working director for awhile afterwards and, "So-and-so's no Turteltaub" became a punchline. (It's also a fun name to say, but not as fun as Winterbottom.)

Thinking about it in retrospect it is kind of like an old comedy. Not in its form exactly, but just because it has a good pace, and it's pleasing in a dumb-but-clever kind of way. It's when the formula is working.

Though I also just like treasure hunting movies.
posted by fleacircus at 3:28 PM on October 24, 2020

Thinking about it in retrospect it is kind of like an old comedy.

You could totally put larval-form Jimmy Stewart and Katharine Hepburn from Brining Up Baby in it.

Leaving the typo in.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 7:53 PM on October 24, 2020 [3 favorites]

This is an excellent movie. So is the sequel, National Treasure Two: Book of Secrets. I take great pleasure in telling Americans that I have a deep knowledge of their country's history based on having watched both of these movies several times.
posted by simonw at 11:39 PM on October 24, 2020 [7 favorites]

It's my 11-year-old's current favorite movie, which seems about right.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:43 AM on October 25, 2020

I mentally also put it on the same category as The Mummy, although it’s not as solid or as sexy as that movie. But it was a lot of fun.

I stayed overnight at my old workplace to monitor a crew shooting there for it. Much to my sadness, it was all extras and props and I didn’t get to gawk at anybody. The whole night’s work made up about twenty seconds of film time.
posted by PussKillian at 6:21 PM on October 25, 2020

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