Saturday, December 22, 2007

National Treasure: Book Of Secrets

Year: 2007
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Jon Voight, Ed Harris, Diane Kruger, Helen Mirren, Justin Bartha, Harvey Keitel, Bruce Greenwood

I remember falling sick on the day I went to watch the first National Treasure. But it wasn't because of the film, it was because the cinema hall was too cold. The first film was a nice little adventure, featuring a treasure hunt based on clues left behind in places you'd least expect to find them. Nicolas Cage plays Benjamin Gates, the protagonist who spearheaded that hunt.

In this sequel, Cage is back again as Ben, and there is yet another mystery to unravel. It begins when he and his father Patrick (Jon Voight), present their ancestor, Thomas Gates, as a national hero to be immortalised in the history books, at a ceremony. It is at this moment, that Mitch Wilkinson (Ed Harris), a man who appreciates treasure hunting and history as much as Ben does, presents part of a missing page from the diary of John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of President Abraham Lincoln. This piece of paper indicates that Ben's ancestor was a co-conspirator in Lincoln's murder.

Ben and Patrick are stunned of course, and refuse to believe it. And Ben, being the crazy, throw caution to the wind kind of guy that he is, intends to find the truth. He ropes in his tech wiz buddy Riley (Justin Bartha), and now ex-girlfriend Dr Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger) to follow the clues. Together they travel to Paris and Washington, and break into high security places, and discover that all this leads to a map to a lost city of gold. The fun begins when Ben asks his mother Emily (Helen Mirren), who can read Native American language, for assistance. And of course, Wilkinson is no doubt close behind them, waiting for his opportunity.

You're probably wondering, what is the Book Of Secrets? If you've seen the trailer, you'd know that it is a book filled with the nation's most confidential information, for President's eyes only. Part of the clues for this hunt is in the book, hence the book's involvement. Though I think it's rather strange that the book doesn't have a big role in the story after all, and yet it is featured in the title.

Anyway, like the first film, this sequel is fun to watch. But not because it presents fresh ideas (since it's a lot like the first film in concept), nor for the action sequences (though there's a nice car chase in the narrow streets of London thrown in). It's fun because of the characters and script. The interaction and camaraderie between the cast is charming and infectious, as they all have great chemistry together. Bartha gets the lion's share of the one-liners as usual, playing off against the seriousness of Cage and Kruger's characters. Voight and Mirren also shine as the estranged couple who can't seem to get along, squabbling like old people usually do.

But, as fun as it is, it's not original in many ways. It may appeal to people who love American history, or fans of Cage, but not for people who really crave for adrenalin pumping adventures. You know, the ones where the danger you see on screen feels real, and it keeps you on the edge. This one is like a ride in an amusement park, where the fun doesn't last.

I'd recommend it for people who'd like to bring their whole family go see something that everyone can enjoy. But not if you want something more meaty. (3.5/5)

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