National Treasure

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 January, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 January, 2005, 12:00am

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Diane Kruger, Justin Bartha, Sean Bean

Director: Jon Turteltaub

Category: IIA

Jerry Bruckheimer and Nicolas Cage have come up trumps again at the US box office - after the gold they struck with The Rock (1996), Con Air (1997) and Gone in 60 Seconds (2000) - but the surprising thing is the nature of their latest effort.

National Treasure is (by their previous standards, at least) a low-key adventure: no massive body count, no high-octane thrills and spills, no standout performances. What it relies on is the Bruckheimer formula: dashing hero, beautiful love interest, wise-cracking techno geek, smouldering villain and smattering of solid character actors to flesh the whole thing out.

The plot is a Da Vinci Code-type mystery - here it's a trail of clues left by, among others, America's Founding Fathers. They've hidden a horde of riches (from those nasty Brits, no less). gathered by various do-gooders over the centuries. And Cage's Benjamin Franklin Gates is the only one who's on to it.

No one believes him, save an ex-partner with a penchant for Paul Smith shirts (Sean Bean) and for spitting his words out. So, they both try to solve the mystery, which leads them to a secret map on the back of the Declaration of Independence.

A lot of the film becomes lost in nonsense - about US history, Freemasonry, and even families and their various torn loyalties. Cage (below, with Diane Kruger) does his stoic best and by now this kind of role has become second nature to him - he can pull it on and off.

But the film somehow lacks spark. Not a bad ride, but not much to sink your teeth into.

National Treasure opens today.