How Realistic Was the Security in National Treasure?

At the close of 2017, we come to the realization that it’s been 10 years since the release of the film National Treasure. This film series, a classic in action/adventure drama, stars Nicolas Cage as a devoted historian who is trying to find a mystical national treasure hidden somewhere in America by the Founding Fathers and Freemasons. Along the way, he manages to steal the Declaration of Independence right out from under security. While it delighted us as film-goers, it also begs the question: How realistic is the security in the film?

According to experts, the actual security is much tighter. In a 2004 MTV interview, a spokesperson for the National Archives, Susan Cooper, claimed it would be “very hard … impossible” to steal the Declaration. During the day, it is protected by “bulletproof glass and plastic laminate, surrounded by armed guards and monitored by camera and a computerized system. And as an extra precaution, the document is taken to an underground vault at night.”

In one scene, supporting character Riley activates the heat sensors around the Declaration of Independence with his doctored laser video camera, prompting the document to be moved. In 2004, this might have worked. But the National Archives banned taking photos and videos in 2010 because the light from the flash could cause damage to the document. So he might have gotten away with this, but it’s still a far-fetched way to surpass security.

In contrast, security in general is shown as pretty lax at Independence Hall in the National Treasure. Cage’s character, Ben, easily uses a knife to cut through brick to get to a pair of vintage 3-D glasses. Knife-to-brick mechanics aside, Ben would not have been able to pass security with a knife or weapon in the first place. He’d have to be a lot more creative with his tools if he wanted to step foot inside Independence Hall.

It seems like these adventurous Disney characters captured their treasure much more easily on film than they would in real life. They would also have a much harder time nowadays than they would back in 2004, since security technology has come a long way in 13 years. But, much like how your home security systems can be retrofitted to older security equipment, Ben Gates and his pack of treasure hunters just might figure out how to adapt their old tricks to new methods of security. I suppose we’ll just have to hope for another sequel!


Featured image source: Script Pipeline

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