National Treasure is a very entertaining film about a family, with links to America’s Founding Fathers, that generation after generation follows historical clues to a treasure hidden - buried by the Freemasons in the early years following the Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1776) somewhere in the United States.
Nicholas Cage is Ben (Franklin) Gates (re: Bill Gates? Riches?)and his whole life’s mission is to find the treasure. His partner in discovering the last clue on a ship sunk in the Arctic is Ian Howe (reference to the British General Howe?) played by Sean Bean. Is this a conspiracy theory they are chasing, historical fact or what? They find the clue and realize it is hidden on the back of the Declaration of Independence in the Library of Congress. But Ian double-crosses Ben and the race is on: who will get the Declaration first to discover the next clue?
The film goes on and on, tit for tat, along the Bos-Wash corridor to its culmination. It is in turn tense and funny, and Ben gets the girl.
Some interesting points about the film concern the way the writers link the treasure hunt to Freemasonry. While much of the history is accurate (who first came up with the idea for daylight saving time? And how many signers of the Declaration were Masons?) the link between the Knights Templar and the Masons didn’t hold up to my Encarta Encyclopedia research. Also, the story gets its origin from a message left by Charles Carroll, the only Catholic signer of the Declaration, as if he were a Mason; if he was he was in deep trouble from the Church because the Church forbade membership in the organization for centuries. I couldn’t find any indication in my research that he actually was a Mason. This all makes for quite a yarn, though!
The film, while very entertaining (Nicholas Cage’s performance is right on as a kind of sweet, nerdy type with a strong penchant for patriotic adventure) also seems to be making a subtle political statement or commentary on the political reality of the United States selective messianic role in the world today. The only part of the Declaration that is quoted is:
“But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”
(This made me wonder why they chose this quote and if this is where our leaders get the idea that we can save the world, indeed rationalize our war-making. Are our leaders applying the Declaration of Independence to other countries? And if so, why? And if so, was this the thinking of the Founding Fathers?
(Just last night I saw the premiere of HOTEL RWANDA (see my review) about the genocide there and the fact that no country went to the aid of the people. The same thing is happening in the Sudan. Where are the and the United Nations then and now? Aren't Africans people, too?)
National Treasure is a fun watch, but it has a world-view; more than one. This is an excellent movie to talk about with kids. It's more than just entertainment.