National Trasure


The story centers on Benjamin Franklin Gates (Cage), a historian and amateur cryptologist with a mechanical engineering degree from MIT and an American history degree from Georgetown who comes from a long line of treasure hunters that believe in the legend of a fantastic treasure trove of artifacts and gold, hidden by the Founding Fathers of the United States, and forgotten to all but a few. The first clue was given to Ben’s great-great-great-great grandfather Thomas Gates (Jason Earles) in 1832 by Charles Carroll, the last living signer of the Declaration of Independence, saying simply, “The secret lies with Charlotte”. Young Ben is given this clue in 1974 by his grandfather, John Adams Gates(Plummer). Though John is too old to search anymore and his son Patrick has stopped believing in the treasure, Ben swears that he will take up the Gates family quest.

Thirty years later… Using sophisticated computer arctic weather models, Ben, with his friend Riley Poole (Bartha) and financier Ian Howe (Bean), finds the wreckage of a Colonial ship, the Charlotte, containing a meerschaum pipe engraved with a riddle. After examining the riddle, Ben deduces that the next clue is on the back of the Declaration of Independence. While Ben sees gaining access to such a highly guarded artifact as an obstacle, Ian finds no problem in stealing it. This results in a standoff, during which the ship’s gunpowder is accidentally ignited. Ian and his assistant Shaw escape and the Charlotte explodes with Ben and Riley inside, nearly killing them.

They attempt to warn the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and Dr. Abigail Chase (Kruger) at the National Archives, but no one takes them seriously, believing it to be too heavily guarded to be under any threat. Ben thinks otherwise, however, and decides to steal it to keep it from Ian. Ben and Riley manage to steal the Declaration during a 70th anniversary-gala, just before Ian arrives. Dr. Chase, who is tricked by Ben into taking a replica, is kidnapped by Ian, who thinks she has the real one, and Ben has to engage in a car chase to rescue her. As she will not leave without the Declaration, and Ben will not let her leave with it, she is forced to go along with them.

Ben and Riley agree that the only place to hide from the police would be the home of Ben’s father, Patrick Henry Gates (Voight). Despite his father’s disbelief in the treasure, Ben manages to reveal an Ottendorf cipher on the back of the Declaration, referring to characters in the Silence Dogood letters, which Ben’s father donated to the Franklin Institute. The coded message in the letters leads them to Independence Hall in Philadelphia, where they find special bifocals invented by Benjamin Franklin inside a hollow brick from the building. Ben examines the back of the Declaration with the glasses, to find another clue. After a short chase, Ian gets the Declaration from Riley and Abigail, and the FBI arrests Ben, who has the glasses.

When the FBI attempts to use Ben as bait to get the Declaration back, Ian arranges to have him escape by jumping from the deck of the USS Intrepid, into the Hudson River, a feat not too difficult for Ben as a graduate of the Navy Diving and Salvage Training Center. Using Patrick, Riley, and Abigail as leverage, Ian forces Ben to interpret the clue on the back of the declaration, a reference to a secret chamber under Trinity Church in New York City. During this time, a structural collapse causes Shaw to fall to his death. When the group arrives at a seemingly dead end, Patrick makes up another clue to keep Ian going, telling him a lantern is the clue that leads to the Old North Church in Boston, referencing Paul Revere’s ride. Ian goes to Boston with his men, leaving everyone else to die in the caverns.

After Ian leaves, Ben reveals there is another exit that must be through the treasure room. They find a secret passage into another chamber. To their disappointment, they find it empty, and assume that the treasure was already moved. However, they realize a secondary exit must have been created in case of cave-ins. Ben examines the walls of the room, to find a hole the shape of the pipe from the Charlotte. This lock opens a door into the true treasure room, containing artifacts from all periods of history.

When they leave through the second exit and the FBI arrives, Ben discovers that the chief investigator, Special agent Peter Sadusky (Keitel), is a Freemason. Ben proposes to give the treasure to various museums around the world, with credit being given to the entire Gates family and Riley, with Dr. Chase not being penalized for the theft of the Declaration. However, Sadusky says that someone has to go to prison for the theft of the Declaration, so they fly to Boston, where Ian and his men are breaking the lock to gain entry to the Old North Church. FBI agents emerge from hiding and arrest them under charges of “kidnapping, attempted murder, and trespassing on government property.” The U.S. government offers Ben and his friends 10% of the treasure, but Ben only takes 1% and splits it with Riley. With his share, Ben and Abigail buy a mansion once owned by Charles Carroll, and Riley buys a red Ferrari 360 Spider. Ben and Abigail, who have developed a romantic interest in each other, share a kiss, after which Riley drives off in his new sports car. The film ends with Abigail giving Ben a map and when he curiously asks what it leads to she just smiles a suggestive grin.


Let me go on record as saying that, even though both this and The Da Vinci Code center around similar, if not the same, subject matter, I was bored to tears with the code, whereas this one captured and kept my attention. I seem to be in the minority of people that didn’t fall in love with the code, but it just was too convoluted for my taste.

On to the review…this is one of Nick Cage’s best roles. Ben Gates seem to be  a role he was born to play. There’s nothing fancy about him. He’s just a treasure hunter who wants to bring honor back to his family name and keep the bad guys from getting what they want. In essence he’s a watered down Indiana Jones without the hat and whip…to an extent.

Diane Kruger is the only female in the entire film, which had to maker her feel a bit uneasy during filming, but she holds her own. Go ahead and hit me with your girl power rants and whatnot, but I just think she would have been better as a damsel in distress type, rather than a high ranking government official in charge of the Declaration of Independence. Maybe it’s just me, though.

Sean Beam made a great villain in this film. I think a good portion of the credit, though, should go to the writers. They really developed his character in the first few minutes of the film, including his villainous turn on Ben. 

Jon Voight seems a bit underused for such a great actor, but I guess they can’t all be big parts, right?

As with most historical films of this nature, you may go in not meaning to learn anything and come out ready to go ace a history final.  The fact that you learn something without even knowing it is a testament to how great this film is, as opposed to certain other similar films.

I do feel that this film hit a big of a snag in the middle or so. I can’t pinpoint it exactly, but it just seemed like parts here nd there didn’t need to be as long or in there at all. Of course, I think most films can be shorter, so you can take that with a grain of salt.

Disney has provided us with a solid action film in National Treasure. It seems destined fo franchise status, what with the success of the sequel and parts 3 and 4 currently being written. This is not a family film, but can be enjoyed by all.

4 out of 5 stars


One Response to “National Trasure”

  1. […] Ben Gates, having discovered all that treasure from the original National Treasure, has now gained a bit of respect in the academic community, which is why they’re letting him […]

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