December 05, 2004

National Treasure

Despite being at times preposterous and logically quite flawed, it's the first film since Indiana Jones and the Lost Crusade to earn the right to be compared to an Indiana Jones movie. It had the action set pieces (here even more outrageous and implausible) but more importantly it has the an impressive knowledge of history - or at least gives the impression of having an impressive knowledge of history - that the Tomb Raiders and their like sorely lack.
While many of the facts were probably fabricated for the purposes of the story, many weren't and that drew me in. More importantly, however, the facts were treated as the meat of the story rather than the exposition between explosions.
Here is a movie that is more concerned with its ideals and its motivations than taking the audience on the latest thrill ride. It's easily identifiable as a Bruckheimer production: you have the heroic male lead, the female sidekick/love interest, the intellectual villain, and the geeky comic relief. The difference is in the details; the heroic male is more historian than action hero, the attraction to the love interest is first and foremost a shared passion for history, the villain and the hero share a respect for each other as obvious as the conflict that divides them, and the comic relief is as able as he is oblivious.
The conspiracy theories are chained one after another; they weave into, out of, and around history with a gleeful abandon. Obscure real facts are intertwined with a fictionalized mythology around the free masons. Perhaps my favourite part was the way all of the elements of the puzzle were as old as the mystery itself; it leads the movie to a lot of the lesser-used historical sites in the colonial-area America. When the movie final breaks away from reality into a true Indiana Jones style tomb deep in the underbelly of Manhattan, the entrance is through a building that is plausibly as old as the treasure underneath it.
In the end I didn't believe all of it - where the hell were all of the guards in these historical sites post-theft anyway? - but I was consistently entertained and mentally stimulated by it. Part of me wishes a little more plausibility would have pushed it that extra step into being something substantial. But deeper down, I know that plausibility would ruin most of the charm. ()


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