National Treasure: Book Of Secrets

National Treasure: Book Of Secrets

***

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The successful family adventure movie is a rare thing these days, and in that context, this sequel comes as little surprise, with Nicolas Cage returning to the role of impetuous treasure hunter Ben Gates. This time around, he doesn't even know what he's looking for - but he does know why. His great, great grandfather has been accused of involvement in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and Gates is determined to clear his name. But rival treasure hunter Mitch Wilkinson (Ed Harris) is also on the trail, and Gates has a way of getting into trouble.

With an unchallenging plot, some interesting facts thrown in for history fans, and likable characters, this is an unpretentious, entertaining film which adults as well as kids can enjoy. That said, it doesn't quite live up to the standard set by its predecessor. During the clue-seeking stage of the plot, it's too concerned with imitation to develop any real character of its own. The puzzles themselves aren't very interesting and many of the discovery scenes feel rushed. This part of the film also suffers badly from the journey across the Atlantic, as it's doubtful that many UK viewers will be awestruck by the idea of visiting the Oval Office or will find it easy to identify with the strain of patriotism which courses through the story. The latter part of the film, however, is much more universally accessible, as our heroes explore trap-filled underground caverns, at the mercy of their ancient designers. It's a shame it tries so hard to imitate Indiana Jones, which again makes it difficult for it to find its own voice. Even the cobwebs look familiar. Unlike Jones' adventures, though, this suffers from an overly generous ending which weakens its emotional impact.

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Despite these problems, there's plenty of action here for younger audiences to enjoy, whilst adults will admire the solid performances from an accomplished cast including Helen Mirren, Jon Voight and Harvey Keitel. Diane Kruger appears to have had a charisma bypass operation as Gates' ex-girlfriend Abigail, but Justin Bartha makes an engaging sidekick. Bruce Greenwood plays a personable but unconvincingly well-educated president.

It is, of course, quite unreasonable to think Gates could get away with the sort of stunts he pulls throughout this film, but National Treasure: Book of Secrets is not the kind of story where believability is terribly important. It charms, it thrills, and you'll have forgotten it a week later, so enjoy it whilst you can.

Reviewed on: 31 Jan 2008
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National Treasure: Book Of Secrets packshot
A treasure hunter pursues a series of clues in an attempt to clear the name of a famous ancestor.
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Director: Jon Turteltaub

Writer: Marianne Wibberley, Cormac Wibberley

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Justin Bartha, Diane Kruger, Jon Voight, Helen Mirren, Ed Harris, Harvey Keitel, Bruce Greenwood

Year: 2007

Runtime: 124 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US

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