I can’t really explain why I like this film because I can see its faults however I love both Sean Bean and Nicolas Cage so that’s two reasons right there.
Plus, there’s jeopardy, mystery, clues to work out, and however times I see it, the film still draws me in. It’s that romantic, childish belief that there could be a mystery to unravel and a wealth of glittering goodies just waiting for me…
Basically, it’s a treasure hunt and I love that idea, plus there is treasure at the end and it’s also based very tenuously on history so you get that sense of a few facts in there.
Interestingly, the characters Ben and Patrick (father & son) were all named after founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, Patrick Henry and John Adams. Abigail Chase is a combination of Abigail Adams, wife of John, and Samuel Chase, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and later an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.
The story of the film is that, Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nicholas Cage), is a treasure hunter, whose grandfather told him about a national treasure which is hidden and is too great for any one man/woman to own. His father however wants nothing to do with the whole thing as he spent twenty years of his life chasing it without any reward. It’s one clue, after another, another, another and another with no end in sight.
The treasure is hidden somewhere in the US, and the clues to finding the chest are written in code and scattered all over the place. Ben works out that there’s a clue hidden in code on the back of the Declaration of Independence which is written in invisible ink.
Ben’s initial accomplice and funder, Ian (Sean Bean), decides they should steal the ‘Declaration of Independence’ and Ben disagrees. Ian leaves Ben & Riley to die while he plans to get hold of that vital clue.
Ben tries to tip off the FBI, but they don’t believe him so he decides to steal the document himself to protect it and keep it out of the hands of Ian and his gang who want treasure and don’t care about historical value.
When he steals the document, Ben meets the curator of the archives Abigail, and the rest of the film is about how Ben, Riley and Abigail try to decrypt the clues and rescue the treasure, before Ian.
The film was made in 2004, and since then there was a sequel, in 2007 and it was rumoured a third film would happen, but it hasn’t appeared yet.
Several well known actors have appeared in the franchise, including Jon Voight as Benjamin’s father, Patrick and Christopher Plummer, as his grandfather, John. In both films, Justin Bartha plays Benjamin’s partner, Riley Poole, and Diane Kruger plays Abigail Chase.
3 facts about the US Declaration of Independence:
- There is more than one copy. After the adoption of the Declaration, the committee was given the job of overseeing the reproduction of the approved text. Copies were dispatched across the 13 colonies to newspapers, local officials and the commanders of the Continental troops. These are called the ‘Dunlap broadsides’ – named after the Philadelphian printer, John Dunlap. Only 26 copies survive, most held in museums and library collections, but three are privately owned. One of the Dunlap Broadsides was found hidden in the back of a picture frame that a man bought at a flea market for $4 – it sold for $81.1 million in 2000.
- When the Declaration reached New York, it started a riot, and after cheering the inspiring words, a crowd later pulled down the statue of George lll.
Eight of the 56 people who signed the Declaration were born in the UK, although the majority of members were native-born Americans. Button Gwinnett and Robert Morris, were born in England, Francis Lewis born in Wales, James Wilson and John Witherspoon were born in Scotland, George Taylor and Matthew Thornton were born in Ireland and James Smith came from Northern Ireland.
- There is something written on the back to the Declaration of Independence, however, it is not a treasure map as the film National Treasure’s character claims. It is a simple message written upside down across the bottom of the signed document. “Original Declaration of Independence dated 4th July 1776”. No one knows who wrote this or when.
As an aside, back in the 1980s as a university student, doing my degree, I went to Stratford upon Avon, to see “Midsummer Night’s Dream”. Afterwards, I waited outside the theatre to get a young Sean Bean’s autograph. I met him, and also managed to meet Jeremy Irons too, who was also in the play. It was one of my first ‘groupie’ moments. I’ve since met Jeremy Irons a couple of time yet not Sean Bean. Sigh!!