Saturday, December 15, 2007



Cast: Nicolas Cage, Ed Harris, Diane Kruger, Jon Voight, Harvey Keitel and Justin Bartha
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Time: 116 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

(pic: Cage & Kruger examining a clue)
WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL? When I learnt that Helen Mirren would join the cast of this sequel to “National Treasure” and that the plot would include a break-in into Buckingham Palace, can you blame me for presuming that Mirren would reprise her role as The Queen of England here? Maybe Mirren, as Queen E, would have an interesting encounter with Benjamin Gates (played by Nicolas Cage), I had thought.

Well, I was wrong. Mirren’s role, as it turns out, is much meatier than a cameo as Queen E, although you can’t fault me for associating her with that famous role which had won her so many prestigious acting awards and even an invitation to dine with Her Majesty herself! Incidentally, Mirren had to turn down that royal dinner because she was busy filming this movie. I will not spoil your enjoyment by revealing the role she plays here, except to say that she lends a brand new dimension to this story about the famous treasure hunters of America.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? “Book Of Secrets” opens with new information about John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of President Abe Lincoln, and the 18 pages missing from Booth's diary. When one of the pages is made public by Mitch Wilkinson (Ed Harris), it is found that Thomas Gates, Benjamin's great-grandfather, is mentioned in the page. This suggests that Ben's great-grandfather could have been involved with Lincoln's murder whereas Ben and his father Patrick (Jon Voight) had always thought that their ancestor was a hero during those Civil War years.

HITS & MISSES: Yes, you guessed it: This sets Ben and his dad on a quest to clear the blemish on the Gates’ history. Teaming up with researcher Riley Poole (Justin Batha) and his estranged wife Abigail (Diane Kruger), the treasure hunters have to break into Buckingham Palace and the White House to obtain vital clues and even steal a page from the Presidential Book Of Secrets! In other words, we get the same incredible stunts that Ben and Company must pull off to find a 'legendary' City of Gold!

Like in the first (2004) movie, director Jon Turteltaub takes great pains to provide a mix of comedy, adventure and suspense in the proceedings. The fun part mainly deals with Ben’s supposedly rocky relationship with Abigail, and Riley’s snide remarks about Ben’s crazy schemes. The adventure and suspense come along with Ed Harris’ Wilkinson as the villain, chasing Ben through the gritty streets of London – just to get his hands on Ben’s find. And just when we recover from that seat-gripping car chase scene, we get more Indy Jones-type thrills in the watery caves near Mount Rushmore.

Also, like in the first movie, Turteltaub still could not shake off that tongue-in-cheek contrived feeling that audiences have over the plot and action. We still do not get the sense of real danger in Ben’s exploits, just the feeling that they are like elaborate roller-coaster rides. Cage, who often gets our sympathy as the conscience-stricken or suffering hero, displays none of such complex emotions here, just gung ho smarts and cockiness. Batha provides comic relief; Voight overacts as usual, while Kruger is the prerequisite female distraction.

THE LOWDOWN: It is no secret that this sequel is just another predictable fun ride – the type you get at theme parks where you are forced to accompany the kids.


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