No sooner do you have a book remaining on best seller list for 85 weeks
than you see the Hollywood moneymaking vultures picking its meat apart for a
fresh recipe of success. So, as sure as Dan Brown's novel, "The DaVinci
Code" has hidden clues to a mystery kept hidden by the secret society of the
Masons through generations, making for as gripping an adventure as one can
find these days, we have this star vehicle-mystery adventure based on so many
of the same elements you'd think Brown should receive royalty checks.
We shouldn't worry whether his revival of this end of the genre will further
enrich him but, rather, if it compromises or serves the entertainment values
of the movie. Prepared for a ho-hum case of exploitative imitation, I found
Jonathan Turtletaub's movie a rather positive variation on the theme that
works more than adequately well as a high-paced bit of intrigue based on
the make-believe constructs of "The Mummy," "Tomb Raider," you name it.
Entertainment is possible if you have a secret disposition to (or stomach
for) constant coincidence, uncontested omniscience and all-'round fabrication
that the script calls for. Like, for instance, a treasure map on the back of
the Declaration of Independence that can be seen only with ol' Ben Franklin's
multicolored specs. And that precursor to hologram technology is only part
of the puzzle leading to the freemasonic Knights of Templar treaure, copped
from the temple of King Solomon. It seems that it was too vast to entrust to
anyone so, inspired by 21st century game shows, they found a place for it
that no one could ever find.
So why, one might foolishly ask, create a maze of clues to find it? What
control does a puzzle have over who winds up with it? Ask producer Jerry
Bruckheimer why a premise with so little logic is a clue to boxoffice
The hunt for the treasure has been under way ever since a member of the
Continental Congress entrusted a man named Gates with the first clue.
Unsuccesful, he passed it on to his heirs who have continued the hunt until
1974 when John Adams Gates (Christopher Plummer) reveals the matter to his
grandson, Benjamin Frankin Gates. Young Ben's father Patrick (Jon Voight)
has had enough of the legend, now believing it all to be a hoax.
But 30 years later we find Ben grown up (into Nicholas Cage) into a man who
purposes his life around finding the treasure. After amazingly puzzling out
the first clue and understanding (in a breathtaking leap of scientific
daredeviltry) that a reference to a woman's name is actually a lost ship in
the Arctic, he leads an exploration team financed by Ian Howe (Sean Bean),
finds it and, expecting to find the treasure instead locates the next clue.
This one, after similar mind magic of interpretation, indicates that there's
a map to the treasure on the back of the Declaration of Independence.
An argument about stealing the famed document leads to Howe disclosing that
he's more a criminal investing in finding booty than the benefactor he
appeared to be. When Ben refuses to help him further, Howe blows up the ship
with Ben barely escaping. Knowing Howe is smart enough to steal the
Declaration, Ben tries unsuccessfully to warn the FBI and other interested
authorities, until he winds up in the office of distractingly beautiful
Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger), a conservator of the National Archives.
warns her that if she doesn't take him any more seriously than the others he
tried to warn, he's going to steal the hallowed paper before the bad guys get
The rest is a caper movie with one-upsmanship the game play. It's a
contrived piece of puzzle making, adventuring over the line of hokey, but
also quite clever. The interplay between the obvious lovers in-the-making is
incorporated appeallingly. Humor is injected along all the routes, which
helps us deal with the outrageousness of the insights.
Cage is completely engaged in his quest; Kruger is a delicious side-kick;
Voigt is awkwardly trying to maintain his character; Bean is overpowering in
his highly intelligent and highly deadly villain. The movie is engaging
enough to overcome quick rejection. Now, how about a few clues to the
Bruckheimer treasure? We hear that what this movie really is, is a map...
somewhere between the emulsion and the nitrate of the film.
~~ Jules Brenner