– Summary –
Director : Jon Turteltaub
Year Of Release : 2007
Principal Cast : Nicolas Cage, Justin Bartha, Diane Kruger, Jon Voight, Helen Mirren, Ed Harris, Harvey Keitel, Armando Riesco, Alicia Coppola, Albert Hall.
Approx Running Time : 124 Minutes
Synopsis: Ben Gates returns to locate the whereabouts of a mysterious “Book of Secrets”, a tome which will unlock a secret dating back to the the formation of America.
What we think : Pleasant, diverting adventure film that delivers more of the same from the original, only this time with an expanded cast roster and the inclusion of Helen Mirren. Unassuming, entirely disposable, this is junk cinema at it’s most entertaining.
I have to admit, I had a lot of fun with this film. While not a patch on the original, which was quite a snappy little jaunt, Book Of Secrets still manages to pass the time in an entertaining way. The Jerry Bruckheimer machine swings into full throttle here, with logic and reason flying out the window in a history bending high-concept actioner that has all the hallmarks of the stuff that made the Indiana Jones movies great.
Nicolas Cage returns as Ben Gates, impossibly knowledgeable history buff and book nerd, who once again gangs up with his (ex)wife and a former teammate to solve a puzzle that threatens to tear his family asunder. Look, the plot doesn’t have to even come close to being realistic of believable, as long as the music keeps thumping along and you don’t look too hard, you’ll still enjoy yourself.
The scope of the film is increased significantly, almost as if the writers didn’t want to exclude the rest of world history from what is, essentially, an excuse to tell Americans just how great they are and how wonderful their own history is for the umpteenth time. We manage to find our way to London (which is not in the US, as far as I know) and stop off in Paris to fly a helicopter around the Statue Of Liberty there (and there is a Statue of Liberty in Paris!) before returning to America to kidnap the President. All in a day’s work, really, for Gates and his team, as they try to elude and outwit the blackmailing charlatan who hold the key to the mystery, Ed Harris.
Exactly what Harris is doing in this film is a little beyond me: his role is a cardboard character villain, with little real input except to “be mysterious” and amp up the drama a little. What’s really surprising is how ineffective his final scene is, where the traditional life and death struggle is simply brushed aside for a moment of tear jerking importance. Well, perhaps not that tear jerking. Nevertheless, his character is seemingly at odds with the lighthearted tone of the film generally.
Cage and the rest of the cast seem to be having a ball, reprising their characters from the previous film, although one gets the sense that Jon Voight read the script, shook his head and simply took the paycheck. He seems to be utterly lost in this film, and is almost (almost, mind you) on autopilot. This is a far cry from his frightening Deliverance and Runaway Train days. This casting frivolity is brushed aside by the appearance of Helen Mirren, fresh from her Oscar winning role in The Queen, who plays Gate’s mother (Voight’s estranged wife) and manages to bring a certain level of gravitas to the scenario.
That said, the film blunders along with scant regard for logic and reason, and at the end of the day, all you’re really left with is an entertaining 90 minutes of psuedo-history and car chases. In fact, the car chase in this film is substantially better than in the the previous installment, however I would still say that director Jon Turteltaub is somewhat lacking in the ability to direct a truly exciting action sequence. His action scenes are passable, but lack a real spark that would otherwise make these films truly exciting.
If you could pigeonhole this film into a particular genre, it would be another in a long line of chest beating Bruckheimer slo-mo my-god-aren’t-we-amazing film-making that’s entertaining, but hardly stimulating.