This is a Bruckheimer film from beginning to end. You get all of the standard conventions in National Treasure. Plenty of action, intriguing characters, and a fast and furious ride.
If you’re looking for a history lesson, this isn’t the film for you. While there are some rather fine historical nuggets that can be found, it is not intended as an educational piece. Much like The DaVinci Code, this is entirely meant for entertainment, and entertain it does. From the first sequence the action never lets up, and we’re involved in a whirlwind tour around the nation’s most important locations. The film is just filled to the brim with good performances. Cage’s strength has always been his ability to sell a character completely. He adds nuances that escape many actors who end up making a living playing themselves over and over again. Diane Kruger does a fine job of holding her own as Abigail Chase. I was impressed at her ability to show the character’s slow evolution from foe to friend. Justin Bartha completes the triad of adventurers. He plays the tech savvy Riley
The story’s actually quite simple. The Gates family has been in charge of a secret for over 200 years. A world treasure like no other has been carefully hidden. It was feared the British would plunder the trove, and it was felt no one man should control it. Of course, there were clues left along the way to its existence. Ben Gates (Cage) has made the discovery his life’s work. He is financed by Ian Howe (Bean) who is in it for the money. When it is discovered that a vital clue might be encoded on the back of the Declaration Of Independence, Gates must steal it before Howe can get his hands on it and likely destroy it. The two groups compete to steal the precious document and to finally follow it to the treasure. The execution is far from simple as we are led through clue leading to clue, historical city after historical city. All for a treasure that might have never even existed.
National Treasure is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. This is basically exactly like the earlier DVD release. The transfer is quite clean with no print artifacts at all I could find. Colors are pretty much reference, even if they don’t exactly jump off the screen. There’s quite a bit yellow/gold tint to the darker scenes that I disliked a bit, but this is obviously a creative choice and not any flaw in the transfer. It took away some of the rich black levels at times, blurring what was usually high detail.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is works on most levels. The music is reproduced brilliantly, if a little too loud at times. There is something about a Bruckheimer film’s score that sweeps you up into the action. This time it’s Trevor Rabin who conducts the honors, but it doesn’t seem to matter who the composer is, you get a swelling fanfare for your rapid ride. Dialog is amazingly never lost amidst the score. Surrounds are used with great effect throughout the film. All of this works tremendously well to keep you firmly planted inside the adventure.
This new two-disc release contains pretty much the original disc as the first disc with extras from that release.
Deleted Scenes: The scenes are introduced by Jon Turteltaub. He unnecessarily tells us just what deleted scenes are and why they are generally removed from a film. The scenes presented in widescreen but are non-anamorphic.
On Location: This 12-minute feature gives us a typical look behind the scenes, offering very little in the way of anything new.
Opening Scene Animatic: An interesting CG animation likely intended to open the film.
Alternate Ending: There isn’t really much difference in this ending. It’s expanded somewhat, but unnecessary. I think the film version works just fine.
Decode This: I guess folks will think this code guided trivia game is cute, but it bored me to tears, and I’m actually interested in this stuff.
The second disc offers some brand new features:
More Deleted Scenes: Again you have Turteltaub explaining too much, this time before each and every scene. There’s about 6 minutes of footage here after you subtract the Turteltaub sound bites.
To Steal A National Treasure: The most important story element in the film is the heist of the Declaration Of Independence. Cast and Crew talk about how this plot point was created and developed. The idea required a great amount of rewrite when it was discovered that the archives security was completely revamped after 9/11.
On The Set Of American History: Fortunately these people understood the importance of shooting on location at many of the historical sites visited in the film. The cast and crew appear a bit overcome at times, displaying proper respect for the ground they were walking.