National Treasure: Book of Secrets suffers from the same problem that seems to plagues many sequels by offering more of the same.
The film does manage to up the stakes and increase the action. This time, the legacy of the Gates family is on the line. But rather than keep it simple, the clues take Benjamin Gates (Nicholas Cage) and company overseas to Paris and London.
The film’s prologue puts Thomas Gates on the scene at a tavern near Ford’s Theatre. John Wilkes Booth and co-conspirator Michael O’Laughten ask him to transcribe a page from Booth’s diary. Things turn sour quickly when Gates realizes that the men are members of the Knights of the Golden Circle. Just as bad, the two are pro-Confederacy even as the Civil War just came to an end. Gates does what he can by tearing out a number of pages and burning them. He pays the ultimate cost with his life.
Back in the present day where Thomas Gates is being honored as a Civilian Hero, Mitch Wilkinson (Ed Harris) pulls out a fragment from a missing page and seeks to disgrace the Gates name. As soon as the Gates family was credited with a major discovery, it makes sense that the filmmakers find a way to disgrace their family again. Together with ex-girlfriend Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger) and partner-in-crime Riley Poole (Justin Bartha), Gates and company discover a cipher. This points them in the direction of Édouard Laboulaye. Gates and Riley head out for a scale model of the Statue of Liberty in Paris. They find an 1876 quote that directs them towards the Resolute desks in London and the US, respectively.
While they found a wooden plank in the Queens desk in London, the same cannot be said about the twin desk at the White House. Bring in FBI agent Sadusky (Harvey Keitel) and Gates gets the brilliant idea to find the Book of Secrets. There’s just one problem for Gates. In order to know the book’s location, one must first be elected president. This book is one that allegedly contains many national secrets. While the films draw on facts for the major plot points, they certainly manage to get quite absurd. So, yes, Gates does kidnap the President (Bruce Greenwood). There’s some leeway here in that they go down an undiscovered hidden path on the grounds.
With the photo of the second plank at the Library of Congress, Gates turns to his mom, Emily (Helen Mirren), for transcribing the newer plank. Unbeknownst to Gates and his father, Patrick (Jon Voight), Mitch is also one step ahead. Both groups are going to converge at Mount Rushmore because of course, the national park is a cover up! Can you even imagine it? A city of gold just sitting there behind a national landmark? The whole idea is really just preposterous.
The film does bring up some interesting questions. Did Queen Victoria secretly support the South during the Civil War? What in the hell is on page 47 in the Presidents’ Secret Book? The third film is being teased right in front of our eyes but it’s surely taking forever! How much longer must we have to wait for the answers.
While National Treasure: Book of Secrets offers up more of the same, it’s still quite the thrill ride.
DIRECTOR: Jon Turteltaub
SCREENWRITERS: Marianne and Cormac Wibberley
CAST: Nicolas Cage, Jon Voight, Harvey Keitel, Ed Harris, Diane Kruger, Justin Bartha, Bruce Greenwood, and Helen Mirren