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If you were to take one part Indiana Jones style adventure, add one part caper movie, add another part American history lesson, and throw in some conspiracy theory for good measure (not to mention a whole lot of imagination), then hit frappe the end result would be a popcorn movie cocktail called NATIONAL TREASURE ($35). To enjoy said cocktail, all that NATIONAL TREASURE requires from its audience is that they switch off the higher functions of their brain (so they can ignore the tremendous holes in logic), switch on their suspension of disbelief and let the story carry them away for two hours and ten minutes of escapist thrills.

By now, almost everyone has either seen NATIONAL TREASURE in the theater, on DVD or cable, or at the very least has been exposed to a television commercial that gave away the premise of the movie that there is a treasure map on the back of the Declaration of Independence. However, as NATIONAL TREASURE opens, none of the main characters are aware of this all import ant fact. During the initial exposition, we are introduced to main character Benjamin Gates (Nicolas Cage), whose family has been engaged in a multi-generation treasure hunt for close to two centuries. The treasure for which the Gates family has been searching, was supposedly, hidden from the British, during the revolutionary war, by the founding fathers of the United States, many of whom were Freemasons. As for the history of this legendary treasure itself, it is a long and complex one; so for brevity sake, lets just say that it made its way from the Holy Land via the Knights Templar and to America via the Freemasons that followed in their stead. Finally unraveling a clue that stumped his grandfather John (Christopher Plummer) and father Patrick (Jon Voight), Benjamin deduces that the Freemasons have hidden a treasure map on the back of the Declaration of Independence.

After making his brilliant deduction, Benjamin’s learns the hard way that business partner Ian Howe (Sean Bean) is less than scrupulous. So, after leaving Benjamin and his ally Riley Poole (Justin Bartha) for dead, Ian sets off to steal the Declaration of Independence. When his attempts to warn the government about impending theft go unheeded, Benjamin decides to beat the bad guys to the punch, and steal the Declaration of Independence himself. What follows is a chase through Washington D.C., Philadelphia and New York to see who will get to the treasure first. The cast of NATIONAL TREASURE also features Diane Kruger as Dr. Abigail Chase, the government archivist who finds herself swept up in the race towards the treasure, as well as Harvey Keitel as FBI Agent Sadusky, who is desperate to put somebody in jail for stealing the Declaration of Independence.

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has made NATIONAL TREASURE available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. Overall, the 1080p presentation proves itself to be exceedingly pleasing, although not every moment is perfect. In general, sharpness, image definition and clarity all score very highly, but there are moments where the picture comes across just a tad softer. Textures, individual hairs and fine image details are always discernible, especially in close-ups, or shots without digital elements. Colors tend to be bright and fully saturated and produce very appealing flesh tones. Blacks are deep, whites are crisp and clean, plus the picture produces smooth contrast and a healthy dose of shadow detail. The film elements are very clean. Grain is fairly fine and helps create a very film like presentation.

NATIONAL TREASURE is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel uncompressed PCM soundtrack. Okay, we got us an action/adventure styled soundtrack that delivers the goods. The sound design takes full advantage of all the outlying channels to provide the viewer with the kind of "pinball machine effect’ that effortlessly bounces the action around the entire soundstage. Fidelity is pretty much at the top of its game as well, providing a robust sounding musical score and convincing sound effects. The bass channel is deep and adds just the right amount of rumble. Dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to understand. English, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the disc, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the disc's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a nice body of supplements. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary with director Jon Turteltaub and actor Justin Bartha. Mission History: Inside The Declaration Of Independence is an interactive supplement that may load a little slowly depending on your player; however, it is informative and interesting.

Featurettes include Ciphers, Codes, And Codebreakers (a twelve minute overview of encryption), Exploding Charlotte (six minutes on the frosty, explosive sequence), To Steal A National Treasure (five minutes on the security surrounding the Declaration), On The Set Of American History (six minutes on historic locations featured in the film) National Treasure On Location (eleven minutes; more location work), Treasure Hunters Revealed (eight minutes; real treasure hunters) and The Templar Knights (five minutes on these history figures). Sixteen minutes of Deleted Scenes, an Opening Scene Animatic, an Alternate Ending and Bonus Trailers close out the supplements.

Filled with action, high production values and terrific set pieces, NATIONAL TREASURE is terrific, if mindless, popcorn movie entertainment. Walt Disney’s Blu-ray release looks and sounds great. Recommended.



National Treasure [Blu-ray] (2007)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2008 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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