Redeeming Features UNCAGED: “National Treasure”

Welcome to Redeeming Features. The blog where I (poorly) review movies that are underappreciated, underrated or under the radar, in hopes of convincing you to give them a second chance. National TreasureThis week, we’re confronting a national conspiracy head on. One so horrific, that even writing about it could, and probably will, send the CIA right to my front door. But no longer shall my fellow Americans live a life of darkness. No no no – I’m blowing the lid of this thing, and I’m taking anyone who stands in my way down with me! So take a bow, as we get to the bottom of this treasure trove! Huzzah!

Now, if y’all haven’t already figured out this mystery, I’m talking about National (fuggin’) Treasure! A literal national treasure in the ‘murican film society; so, pay your respects. National Treasure is a near-flawless film about an ancient treasure, and the man committed to finding it. And that man… is Nicolas (fuggin’) Cage.

That’s right – NT is an NC classic. Cage, in one of his best performances of his career, plays Benjamin Franklin Gates (perfect name), the last piece in a multi-century, multi-generational search for the ancient buried treasure protected by the Knights Templar and the Masons. With the help of his quick-witted/slow-minded sidekick, Riley (Justin Bartha), Gates hops from clue to clue like Blue, uncovering sudden realization after sudden realization; each one as badass and totally believable as the last, and solved with pluperfect intelligence and grace. So badass.

The two quickly make their way to the master clue: an invisible treasure map on back of the Declaration of Independence. Thus cueing one of the most popular movie lines in the last decade: “I’m gonna steal the Declaration of Independence.” Cue goose bumps. But why? Why would someone who respects the nation’s history want to steal, and in the process endanger, what could easily be categorized as the most precious piece of American history? Uh, I don’t know, maybe because some OTHER badass treasure hunter wants at it! Bring out the villain, Ian Howe.

Ian (Sean Bean) starts off as a nice guy (don’t they always, ladies) and part of Ben’s treasure team. But once it becomes apparent that the DOI must be nicked in order to find the treasure/get paid, he, in typical bad guy fashion, tries to blow up Ben and Riley on a 300-year-old, gun-powder-filled steamboat. Classic bad guy move.  Naturally, Ben and Riley are not too keen on this impromptu fireworks show; so, they see it best to put an end to their partnership and head in different (but inevitably identical) directions.

One direction in particular, leading to one Dr. Abigail Chase. Who happens to be a total knockout and, as Riley describes her, is a “very cute man.” Oh, right – she also happens to be the National Archivist, a collector of national election pins, and the sole protector of the DOI. Hmmm, I wonder if she’ll play a pivotal role/love interest. Hmmmmm. Anyways, while trying to steal and protect the DOI, Gates runs into quite a quandary in which Dr. Chase, having stolen his heart, requires his protection thanks to, you guessed it, Ian. What a scoundrel. Thankfully, Cage is a total BAMF and saves her. But quickly they learn they need each other for more than just PG sexual tension and decide to team up.

So, now we’re prepped, primed, and ready to plunge into a series of chase scenes, close calls, and clue crackin’. I don’t wanna give any of the clues away because, well, that’s really the whole damn movie. But I will give you some clues as to what happens: artic terrain, badass ice monster trucks, blood used as ink, explosion, hacking, stealing, guns, lemon and a hairdryer, hanging from doors, caves, and other awesome shit. Also, some pretty dumb, but surprisingly funny dialogue.

All in all, National Treasure is really a fun little movie that is so ham-fistedly spelled out that you don’t really have to be paying attention to get 100 percent everything that’s going on at every turn. It really is a perfect movie. That is, of course, if your definition of “perfect movie” means an American classic comprised of total nonsense scavenger hunts, badass explosions, perfect detective work, and the one and only Nic Cage. And if it don’t – well then f**k you.

TL; DR – modern treasure hunters race to find forgotten riches rumored to be protected by the founding fathers, and in the process, do their best to thwart dangerous mercenaries/look kickass.

Cody Tidmore is a Level Three sketch student at DCH. He’s been watching movies for as long as he can remember. Seeing it all – the good, the bad, even the ugly. And when it comes to annoyingly working movie quotes into regular conversation, he’s the reel deal.