Director: John Turteltaub
Writers: Cormac Wibberly, Marianne Wibberly, Ted Elliot, and Terry Rossio
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Justin Bartha, Diane Kruger, Jon Voight, Ed Harris, Helen Mirren, Harvey Keitel, Bruce Greenwood
Rating: PG (action)
Running Time: 124 min
Release Date: 12/21/2007
National Treasure: Book of Secrets is the sequel to the highly popular National Treasure (2004). Films of this sort pose a difficult problem for the critic. They have a very high quality of acting, special effects, and general production standards. On the other had the plot is something out of bad comedy skit. The general negative reviews of most critics come from the latter. Since the movie is played dead pan serious without a laugh track, it gets compared with a typical action/drama genre films and comes up short. However, if you just turn down you critical faculties for a while and enjoy what it has to offer, while chuckling inwardly at its absurdities, you’ll have a very good time.
Book of Secrets takes place sometime in the aftermath of the first film with Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nicolas Cage) attending a lecture by his father, Patrick Henry Gates (Jon Voight), on the role of his Civil War era great-grandfather, Thomas Gates, in destroying a page in John Wilkes Booths diary. Patrick asserts that this was the key to a code that would reveal the location of a secret gold stash to a pro-Confederate group known as the Knights of the Golden Circle. By destroying it, Thomas Gates saved the from a continuation of Confederate resistance. However, a member of the audience, Mitch Wilkinson (Ed Harris), the descendent of Confederate general, claims that he has the missing page. He further claims that it proves that Thomas Gates was in fact the mastermind of the plot to assassinate President Lincoln.
Patrick was devastated and Ben was determined to prove that his family was not behind the Lincoln assassination. Enlisting the help from his friend Riley Poole (Justin Bartha), a computer hacker and author a book on their previous Masonic gold caper, they set out on an international search of the treasure. One clue involves Rene de Laboulaye of Statue of Liberty fame takes them to France. This in turn leads to Buckingham Palace in search of the queen’s desk where Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger) the archivist joins the hunt. This is fortunate because the next clue leads them to a matching desk in the oval office and she happens to be dating a White House staffer who can get them in for a brief peek. It also turns out that Ben’s mother (Helen Mirren) is an expert on extinct Native American languages curtail to the ultimate success of the quest.
Perhaps the two most incredible plot points are the presidential “book of secrets” itself and the actual location of the treasure. The book is “written by presidents for presidents” and for some reason is stored in the congressional library rather than a GSA approved safe in the White House, is suppose to contain the truth about such things as the 18-1/2 minute gap in Nixon tape (As if Nixon transcribed the tape before Rosemary Woods accidentally erased it?), whether men really landed on the moon (Is there any serious debate?), and Area 51 (I would guess a lot other people in the government would have to know about that besides the president!). As for the idea that one our most famous monuments was just constructed to hide an underground city of gold is just absurd. I happen to know (based on another film) that Mount Rushmore is in fact the secret base of operations of our crack counter-terrorism team!
All joking aside, this movie is a lot of fun. Perhaps not as good as the original but the two hours go by fast and you will come out feeling a lot better than you will from many of the more critically acclaimed movies. Perhaps I being a little optimistic but this film may stimulate interest in our nation’s history as well.