In 2008, the BBC created an archaeological adventure drama called Bonekickers, which featured a team of passionate, globe-trotting archaeologists. Every week the archaeologists suffered a series of ludicrous conspiratorial plots in order to track down famous historical artefacts (among them Excalibur, the True Cross, and, er, Roman hand grenades) and then casually destroy them. Bonekickers was an abject failure and incredibly hilarious, which is why I take every opportunity to bring it up and encourage everyone to dredge HMV’s bargain bins for the DVD.
National Treasure is basically what Bonekickers wishes it was. The film’s plot is the sort of beast that makes Illuminati conspiracy theorists weep with excitement; within the first few minutes we are assaulted with a history-sprawling conspiracy involving Egyptians, Romans, Knights Templar, Masons and the founding fathers of America. Nicolas Cage plays the stupidly-named Benjamin Franklin Gates, whose family have been searching the world for a lost collection of arbitrary treasure.
Ben and his rival Ian (Sean Bean) learn that a map to the treasure is hidden on the back of the Declaration of Independence. Ben, realising that Ian won’t hesitate to steal and destroy the Declaration because Ian is British and therefore an evil freedom-hater, decides to steal it first. Cars are chased, mysteries are unravelled and priceless historical artefacts are casually endangered.
Justin Bartha takes on the sidekick quipping duties, while Jon Voight plays Ben’s cynical dad. Also along for the ride is Diane Kruger as fellow history nerd Abigail Chase, the film’s only notable female character and victim of possibly the least romantic kiss ever seen on screen; “C’mere” is a line that could sound effortlessly cool coming from golden age Harrison Ford, but Cage delivers it with the energy of a man looking for his toenail clippers. Marion and Indy these two are not.
Despite all this, I found myself enjoying National Treasure. The story, although ridiculous, rolls along at a good pace, and there’s plenty of action to drown out the historical hokum. This is the sort of film the whole family goes out to see during the Christmas break; although I watched it alone in a darkened room, muttering angrily at the characters and questioning my choices in life, it somehow managed to trick my inner curmudgeon into going on holiday. National Treasure is a fitting film for that dozy state after an enormous Sunday lunch; just sit down, zone out and go with it.