A Silly Treasure Hunt
[Pic Courtesy IMDb]
One can almost picture the producers salivating on hearing the premise behind National Treasure. It is a treasure hunt with a string of clues leading to a huge treasure(like The Da Vinci Code), it has a cool protagonist(like James Bond) and features a series of action sets in exotic locales(like the Indiana Jones trilogy). With the formulae from three bonafide blockbusters, how could the film fail? But unfortunately, it does. It is silly, completely unbelievable and way too long.
Nicolas Cage plays a bounty hunter in search of a fabled treasure that has been lost for centuries. A piece of paper handed down from his great grandfather leads him to a ship and from the a clue on the ship, he learns that the map to the treasure is on the back of the Declaration of Independence. In order to prevent another bounty hunter(with more sinister plans) from stealing the historical document, Cage steals it himself and goes after the treasure.
I love puzzles and riddles and was hoping that the fun part of the movie would be seeing how Cage solves the clues leading him to the treasure. But the clues here are so vague that they can be interpreted in several ways. And the hunt and some of its components are so complicated that we don't believe for even a single moment that people in their right minds would have actually planned and created them in the hope that someone would solve them.
Worse, Cage doesn't solve the clues through any logical or analytical thought process. He goes into a "thinking mode" when he sees a cryptic message while people around him look at him expectantly and then comes up with a sudden explanation that we wouldn't have thought of in a thousand years. In order to limit the running time to acceptable limits, it is understandably necessary for Cage's interpretations to be right. But even with cinematic liberties, the way he finds stuff is jaw-droppingly silly. For instance, the line "the secret lies with Charlotte" somehow tells him that Charlotte is a ship. After a convoluted explanation dealing with currents and ice, he ends up looking for the ship north of the Arctic circle. And when he digs a few inches into the snow, he hits something solid and brushes away the snow to reveal a nameplate that reads "Charlotte"! Oh Come On!!
The one enjoyable sequence in the movie is the actual robbery of the Declaration of Independence. It has some neat ideas(I liked the way he gets to read the keys the previous entrantant into the room typed in) and is picturized well. From there on, the movie goes downhill with each subsequent clue being sillier than the last one(like an x-ray glass hidden in the brick of an old church!)
Towards the end I didnt care whether he found the treasure or not and simply wanted the chase to end! The underground sequence seems to go on forever and even has a father-son moment reminiscent of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. There are any number of false climaxes, each of them more irritating since we realise the movie hasn't ended!
Don't go looking for this treasure!