When a film manages to combine children-friendly dialogs, historic settings juxtaposed with modern technology, and fast-paced action without violence, who cares whether there are loose ends so big a history professor or novelist would gasp in alarm? National Treasure: Book of Secrets, even while requiring some suspension of belief and common sense, manages to be a good, fun action movie for the whole family.
The movie starts at the end of the Civil War when Thomas Gates, grandfather of protagonist Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage), is approached by John Wilkes Booth and a fellow Confederate to unravel a secret cipher. Booth leaves to assassinate Lincoln, and as Gates discovers that the people wanting him to decipher the code are actually Confederates on the trail of gold, he throws the paper into the fire. Shot by the Confederate, he manages to pass on a few words to his young son before he dies.
Fast forward to the present, when a man interrupts Ben Gates’ academic discussion on the civil War and provides “proof” that Ben’s great-grandfather was among those who murdered President Lincoln. The front page publication of this story spurs Ben, along with father Patrick (Jon Voight) and friend Riley (Justin Bartha), to decipher the code in Booth’s diary in order to exonerate his great-great-grandfather. Along the way, he makes up with estranged wife Abigail (Diane Kruger) and asks his mother (Helen Mirren) for help in deciphering the ancient American Indian hieroglyphics that hold the key to the puzzle.
The grand finale in Mount Rushmore provides a highly visual treat to fans of the Indiana-Jones genre, and is well shot.
National Treasure: Book of Secrets has too many loose ends and unbelievable sequences–to crack the puzzle, Cage is able to break into the Buckingham Palace and the White House, and kidnaps the President of the United States. But it is a family film with clean (and actually funny) jokes and no bloodshed (though broken cars, crazy driving, and ancient skeletons in City of Gold are present). Jon Voight, Diane Kruger and Justin Bartha provide a perfect and humorous foil for Cage’s central character.
Overall, National Treasure: Book of Secrets is an action film that the whole family can enjoy. Its loose ends, unbelievable script and weak anti-hero are made up for by excellent dialogues by the heroes, breathtaking action scenes at vintage international locations, and the fact that this is a truly clean family flick.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5