This action-mystery movie is so far-fetched it is farcical. '... Book of Secrets' follows in the same vein as the first 'National Treasure' film, a cross between 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' and 'The Da Vinci Code' but coated in uncompromising American patriotism.
The story goes that a missing page reappears from the Civil War diary of President Benjamin Franklin's assassin. The page reveals that the grandfather of academic and treasure hunter Benjamin Franklin Gates (Cage) may have been involved in the murder. Ben sets out to clear his family's name, unravelling a mystery that sees him inside Buckingham Palace, flying a small helicopter around the Statue of Liberty in Paris and onto the floor of the Oval Office.
If this doesn't already sound ridiculous, each new place on this treasure trail is found using a pretentious clue unravelled aloud by Ben in soliloquies so bad only daytime soaps could match them. Ben has his own'Q', a sidekick called Riley (Bartha), whose ability to mess with technology takes too much suspension of disbelief. One such moment is when Riley hacks into London's speed camera system to get a photograph of Ben holding up an ancient wooden scroll as he drives by. Is this a clever trick or simply ludicrous? Not as ludicrous as the film's centrepiece, the kidnapping of the US president using a secret underground tunnel.
The Oscar-wielding cast is the biggest disappointment of this film. Famous faces like Ed Harris, Jon Voight, Helen Mirren and Harvey Keitel all play side roles and do the best they can with the script and plot. However there is no chance of acting being the saving grace of this film given the unconvincing performance from lead Nicholas Cage.
The action sequences are not very believable either. One such scene is a badly shot car-chase with an SUV through the streets of London. This is a film that does not shy from cultural clichés and so the chase includes dodging a red double-decker bus and crashing into a truck carrying kegs of English ale. When the adventurers finally plunder the Native American city of gold, the ancient traps to block them are dumbed-down versions from Indiana Jones.
'…Book of Secrets' preposterous attempt to be an intellectual patriotic puzzle will cause unintentional snickering from audiences. However, despite its cultural ignorance, badly developed romantic side-stories, slapstick comedy, hodgepodge of plots and two-hour running time, during its fast-paced parts, it is a silly, watchable film.