Benjamin Franklin Gates is a man with a great family legacy full of heroism and great men. Trouble is, the rest of the world doesn’t see it that way. For generations Ben’s family has searched for a treasure believed to have been smuggled out of Europe and hidden in the colonies by our Founding Fathers. How do they know the treasure is real? Because a Gates was the one to receive the cryptic message about its existence from a dying president. All it’s seemed to have gotten them, though, is a reputation as conspiracy theorists. While Ben’s father is fed up after losing everything, including his good name, Ben can’t forget the stories told to him by his grandfather, and he refuses to give up on his family legacy.
So, when Ian Howe offers to fund Ben’s Expedition to find the treasure, Ben hops on the opportunity and takes his tec savvy best friend along with him. But, upon deciphering the clue long past down to his family, Ben discovers another clue, one that leads him to believe there is an invisible map on the back of the Declaration of Independence. It is at this point in the game when Ben learns who the treasure protectors are, and who the treasure hunters are. It’s now up to Ben and Riley, after narrowly escaping Ian with their lives, to protect the Declaration, and the treasure, at all costs, causing them to hatch an elaborate plan to steal the Declaration. Along the way they unwittingly partner up with Abigail Chase, a National Archives conservator, and Ben’s Father.
I was very skeptical when I first watched National Treasure several years ago, because the driving force of the movie seems questionable. The main character has to do something wrong (steal) in order for the plot to move forward. However, when I watched the movie, it quickly became one of my all time favorites because of this plot point. Ben does something wrong (steal the Declaration of Independence) in order to do what is right.
Quoting from the Declaration of Independence, Ben points out that those with the ability to take action have the responsibility to take action. Ben doesn’t look at the treasure as something to seek after for monetary gain. He sees it as something to seek after because of the history which will be unearthed upon its discovery—the legacy. The Declaration is revered as a symbol of freedom to be protected, and Ben’s and Ian’s simultaneous attempts to steal that document reveal a sharp contrast in their methods and character. Thus everything in the movie is motivated by two things: The bad guys are in it for personal riches and are happy to destroy the Declaration once they are done with it, to ensure no one else ever find the treasure, and Ben is motivated by family loyalties and the desire to share the world’s heritage with the world’s museums.
It is no surprise, then, to learn that Ben is a character worth emulating. He’s an example to young boys in our day and age who have few good examples to follow. Ben never gives up, and his persistence even in the midst of disappointments and frustrations is admirable. He patiently endures persecution for what he believes to be true. Despite people calling him foolish and crazy, Ben and his ancestors (Dad excluded) have maintained an undying optimism and held fast to their convictions.
We also see in the movie that family and friendships are portrayed as sacred. Young Ben shares a deep camaraderie with his grandfather that shape’s his life, and he cares deeply about his father, and what his father thinks of him, despite their estranged relationship (in the end they have mended their relationship). Also, Ben’s relationship with his friends, first Riley and then Abigail, is honorable, as is his sanctity of life. While Ben passionately wants to find that treasure, he puts his friend’s lives first. He chooses Riley’s life over the treasure more than once, saves Abigail before the Declaration, and when they lose the Declaration to Ian, Ben’s first response is to make sure they are okay.
There is only one use of hell in this movie, but a handful of for god’s sake, my lord, and so forth.
When Ben shows up at his father’s house with Riley and Abigail in tow (father and son have obviously not spoken for a while), his dad’s first question is “Is she pregnant?”. The question is a bit humorous to viewers, as Ben is not portrayed as that type of guy, but it could upset some parents (I rather found the interchange funny, as Abigail’s response is “Do I look pregnant?!”).
The violence in this movie is not bloody at all, and mostly just gun fire. There are some skeletons shown on screen, and Ben finds himself in many intense situations, but these are all thriller based, as opposed to violence based. After all, this is a Jerry Bruckheimer movie (I adore Bruckheimer), so wild car chases, explosions, and Indian Jones styled treasure hunting predicaments are in abundance.
Now, the biggest issue I could see people having is the right vrs wrong themes portrayed in the movie. As I said before, Ben’s motives are pure, and he is doing what he believes to be right no matter the cost, but many Christian viewers seem to be getting pickier and pickier about storytelling (film or not) being strictly black and white. I disagree with this. I like movies that are black and white, don’t get me wrong, but not everything is black and white in our world. As Ben Gates says, our Founding Father’s committed high treason in the name of freedom- something that was right, but because of circumstances and the rulers and principalities of this world, that right action is said to be wrong. Ben never compromises what is right, but he has to use questionable means to accomplish what is right (hack into the security cameras to steal the Declaration, trick Abigail when he first meets her, lie to Ian in order to protect his friends). So, depending how you feel on situational ethics, you may or may not like this movie.
National Treasure has become one of my favorite movies. I give it high praise and have coerced many of my friends into seeing it (all of whom, thus far, have adored it!). This is a clean version of Indiana Jones with way more historical tidbits, a hero who is actually virtuous, and a zany side kick who brings good comedy to the story. It’s action/adventure packed and baits you clue by clue and chase by chase. It is the type of movie that makes you say “Why don’t they make more movies like that?” Which is why I say, if you haven’t seen it, do.