Film reviews

National Treasure: Book of Secrets, Dir. John Turteltaub, Cert; PG (Opens 8th Feb 2008)

Nicolas Cage has somewhat blotted his copybook of late, starring in a handful of nondescript action films, a bevy of fair to middling “historical dramas” and, worst of all, the sacrilegious atrocity that was the remake of Robin Hardy’s brilliant 1973 occult thriller “The Wicker Man”. I’m not sure I can ever forgive him for that.

These factors hardly filled me with joyful anticipation for the already lukewarmly received sequel to John Turteltaub’s 2004 blockbuster. As it pans out, it’s a lot better than I expected.

This time around, the mystery is centred around the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Benjamin Gates (Cage) is presenting a seminar about that fateful night at Ford’s Theatre in 1865, when the shadowy figure of expert archaeologist Mitch Wilkinson (the effervescent Ed Harris) rises to challenge history, suggesting that the Gates family themselves are descended from a man directly linked to John Wilkes Booth’s deadly plan. Naturally, Gates is incensed at such a revelation, and that forms the major crux of the remainder of the movie.

The more anally retentive, anorak sporting, finger wagging movie geeks will find plenty here to spit and snarl about – indeed many of the gaping plot holes are sitting ducks waiting for their feathers to be plucked – but for pure entertainment value, “Book of Secrets” delivers just over two hours of family fun with enough spills and thrills to appeal to me, mothers and munchkins alike.

To give you an idea of how ridiculous it gets, both Buckingham Palace and the White House are infiltrated quickly and with little ado, and one of the “clues” leads Gates to the Statue of Liberty – a landmark which wasn’t even created until two whole decades after Lincoln’s death. But let’s not split hairs, for although such flaws may spoil the picture for the purists, for me it just added to the film’s innocent charm.

Talking of charm, Cage’s on-screen parents, Patrick Gates (Jon Voight) and Professor Emily Appleton (Helen Mirren) provide bags of it as the recently separated couple who clearly still have feelings for each other, while Justin Bartha reprises his role as Gates’ hapless assistant Riley Poole. His character is a lovable buffoon, a time honoured “directors’ trick of the trade” to offer the audience light relief following scenes of a heavier dynamic.

Other key players are the beautiful Diane Kruger as Gates’ estranged live-in lover, Harvey Keitel once again playing against type as FBI leader Agent Sadusky, and Bruce Greenwood playing a frankly ludicrous, seemingly non-corrupt American president, which I’m sure you’ll agree stretches the imagination far more than the aforementioned plot holes.

In short, it’s hardly a classic, but then it never sets out to be, and it kept me amused enough throughout the two hours and four minutes of its duration. 7/10

Tone E

Odeon Online


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