Movie #52 2021: National Treasure (2004)

At only 16 years old, it feels like this movie is somewhat of a cult classic already. I have no recollection at all of National Treasure being released in cinemas when I was a kid, so maybe it’s more of a North American phenomenon. Nevertheless, I was intrigued enough to see what all the fuss was about.

National Treasure stars Nicolas Cage as the lead character, who is aptly named Benjamin Franklin Gates. You read that correctly. Anyway, as a child, Gates’ grandfather informs him of the story of the Knights Templar, which inspires him to go on a huge treasure hunt once he’s an adult. He learns that this so-called treasure was hidden away by the Freemasons to stop those pesky Brits from stealing it for themselves. His first clue? He believes that there’s a hidden treasure map on the back of the United States’ Declaration of Independence. He – with the help of his sidekick Riley Poole (Justin Bartha) – sets out to steal the declaration before his nemesis can, in an effort to find the treasure once and for all.

What could go wrong?!

Firstly, fuck all the haters: this movie is a masterpiece. This is a movie that received generally poor reviews, and I must set the record straight and tell you all that they are all simply wrong.

Okay, perhaps I’m slightly biased. Seeing as my main two interests are US History and heist movies, I may not be the most impartial person to review this. I’ll be honest, I put off watching it for ages because it’s so long. Turns out it’s consistently fun and the pacing is genuinely excellent, so the runtime wasn’t even an issue. Nailed it. Don’t let that deter you like it did me. It felt more like 60 minutes than over two hours.

I will admit, the performances are cheesy as hell; there are a lot of dramatic head turns, for instance, but whooooo caaaares? The characters are pretty likeable and even Nicholas Cage isn’t too bad. If anything, he (along with Bartha and Diane Kruger) is really quite endearing throughout, and this movie is about the action and the adventure rather than being any sort of acting masterclass.

With its grandiose sets and far-fetched narrative, this whole movie is just a really cool, interesting piece of storytelling for me. If I’d seen this when I was 12 I’m completely sure I’d be an archaeologist by now, and that’s the power of cinema. It has that Indiana Jones feel to it, it’s full of twists and turns, and the best part? You get to come along for the ride while the mystery unravels. 

I said it before and I’ll say it again: I just don’t understand how people hate this movie! Some of the history is completely off (in fact, most of it is entirely fictional) and there’s more than one plot hole for sure. Despite all that, it’s a piece of pure entertainment and I won’t tolerate any hatred towards it.

Have some joy, would you?

National Treasure is available to stream on Disney+ in the UK.

TQR Category Ratings:

Costume & Set Design: 
Overall Rating:  (and it’s a well fucking deserved 5 Qs as well!)

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