Before you say anything, it was free, okay? I wouldn’t normally see something like this in the cinema but it’s nice to see a film for free, and my girlfriend wanted to see it because she likes Nic Cage. (See what I did there? Casually dropped into the conversation that I have a girlfriend, in case anyone was wondering about my sexuality or my partnership status, and blamed her at the same time, thus incurring her wrath when she reads this. There’s just so much going on in this post.)
Now, I haven’t read The DaVinci Code, but I’d guess there are similarities, even though this script has been in the works for several years prior to the book. I can see why the idea appeals; hidden codes in very famous things that people know (or think they know) that leads to conspiracy theories and swanning off to exotic locations. Probably makes for an entertaining, if extremely light, read. As a film, it doesn’t quite come across, because all the history stuff is a bit dry for most blockbuster audiences, so they have to stick in explosions and guns and car chases, and the film is nothing but plot with only lip service paid to characterisation.
The obvious cinematic antecedent here is Indiana Jones. There is, I believe, a nod to a scene-shift in The Last Crusade, where the young Indy has his hat put on his head, which cuts to older Indy having his head lifted with the hat. Here, the young Gates lowers his head, to cut to the old Gates looking up in a snow sled. Or I could be looking for more than there is in a fairly obvious scene transition. Also, they both have dads who are pains in the derriere, they are both ‘indiscriminate’ with ladies, they’re both history buffs; fortunately, they don’t go so far as having Gates with a fedora and whip. Also, there’s a bit of Tomb Raider thrown in, with the nerdy male computer/comedy sidekick, and Jon Voight as the father.
The story. Well, Nic Cage is Ben Franklin Gates, the latest in several generations of the Gates family who have been looking for the treasure of treasures that was discovered by the Knights Templar, who became the Freemasons when they came to the Americas, then hid it when they thought the British were coming to steal it (we Brits have a nasty history of nicking things from around the world, but surely the Knights Templar nicked it in the first place? Why aren’t they ‘evil’?). The last clue was passed to the first Gates, who has passed it down through the generations, along with the story of the treasure. Now, the Gates name is mocked in academic circles, and finding the treasure seems more remote than ever.
Then, it’s a case of clue, history lesson, heist, chase, clue, chase, clue, chase, clue, clue, climax, resolution. (I might have missed some clues from that list.) There’s some clunkiness in the plotting towards the end, where Diane Krueger’s character becomes more able than she was before, and bringing the Dad as a hostage, just so he can turn the denouement at the end, was a little forced. But it’s light and entertaining and a pleasant enough diversion for two hours.
In the acting stakes, Cage is looking a bit tired in the action scenes (unless that was a character trait deliberately performed by Cage, because his character is tending towards the bookworm end of action heroes, but he is 40 now, so make of that what you will), Sean Bean is reliable enough as the English bad guy, Voight looks doddery, while Harvey Keitel, as the FBI agent in charge of the case, looks like he’s come straight from pantomime, based on the amount of make-up (especially eyeliner) he has plastered on his mush. Krueger looks pretty and Justin Bartha, trying to erase Gigli from his CV, even though he was probably the best thing in it (yes, I’ve seen Gigli, no, I didn’t pay any money to see it), gets most of the funny lines (the dialogue seems to have been through many more rounds of script doctors than the three credited screenwriters would suggest). All in all, fun fluff without substance, but it doesn’t leave an unpleasant taste in the mouth either.
(As you can see from the above, I had to write this blog in order to overcome my cinematic diarrhoea; look at the amount of crap I can produce when talking about an average film that I didn’t want to see in the cinema, and you get an idea of what my girlfriend has to put up with on a regular basis. You can send your sympathies to her via me.)