The movie starts out with entrance into an old pub in the 1800’s. A dark haired man and a blond haired man walk up to a man sitting at a table with his grandson. The dark haired man asks if he is Thomas Gates. He says yes and ushers the boy off to go play alone. The blond man asks Gates if he can “decode” something that he has. It is several sets of letters and he says he cannot do it without a key and begins to work on it. The dark haired man gets up and leaves, walks through a back door to a theatre, upstairs and shoots President Lincoln in the back of the head. At this point in time, you realize he was John Wilkes Booth. He jumps from the balcony to the stage and runs off. Flash back to the pub and Gates realizes that what he is decoding is a treasure map, the blond man shoots him and Gates rips out the piece of paper and throws it into the fire burning part of it. The blond man stands over him pointing the gun to his head when the grandson runs over and hugs his grandfather asking the other man to stop. The man walks off and Gates says his last dying words "the debt that all men pay" with the boy asking for help to an empty pub.
Flash forward to Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) speaking at a college with his father Patrick Gates (Jon Voight) about the assassination of President Lincoln. The previous story was told by Patrick’s grandfather (the little boy in the pub.) Dr. Nichols thanks him for coming and there is a man in the background claiming the story was a lie. Mitch Wilkinson (Ed Harris) stands up claiming that Gates was one of the co-conspirators and the architect in the Lincoln assassination and is just as guilty as Booth. Mitch says he also has proof; the missing page of Booth’s diary that Gates attempted to burn. Turns out Mitch is the great grandson of Booth and was told the story by his father, passed down.
The class leaves and Ben, Patrick, Dr. Nichols and Mitch are all standing around talking about the assassination. Dr. Nichols asks to see the page and it matches with the diary that Dr. Nichols has. Both Gates seem to think there is a mistake.
Next, we see Riley Poole (Justin Bartha) at a book signing at a bookstore. A funny scene involving a woman thinking he is Ben and walking away when realizing he is not and his Ferrari getting towed because he did not pay taxes on it. Riley is walking home and Ben is sitting on his door step. Turns out Ben and Abigail (Diane Kruger) split up at some point and Ben needs help getting to see the back of the missing page of Booth’s diary to see if there is in fact a treasure map on the back of it.
Ben and Riley go over to Abigail's house (used to be Bens but she has taken it over) and they need to get her card to see the page. Abigail is out on a date with Connor (Ty Burrell) who works at the White House (important later.) Ben and Riley break into the house, find the card and are getting ready to leave just as Abigail is coming home from her date. Abigail knows what he is doing and the jig is up. She says goodnight to Connor and Ben convinces her to let him look at the back of page. They see that there is in fact something on the back several letters that should start them off on the right track. While this is happening, Mitch Wilkinson breaks into Patrick's house and duplicates his cell phone so all the calls he receives Mitch receives too (important later).
Riley, Patrick and Ben go back to Patrick's house to decode it. Patrick remembers that his grandfather was told "The debt that all men pay" and they know that this is "Death." After using it as the key,"Laboulaye" is what they come up with. This was the man who was the creator of the Statue of Liberty. Ben says which one. Turns out there are three of them and this sends them to Paris to the original Statue. After Riley flies a mini-helicopter next to, Ben figures out (through two French policemen) that they need to go to Buckingham Palace to look at one of the two Resolute Desks. When he is there, Abigail shows up and Ben causes a scene getting throw into a mini-lockup. Causing the scene was part of the plan because Riley is able to unlock doors to get them out, they go to the desk and through a series of clues figure out that if they pull them out the right drawer the right length, it unlocks a secret part that reveils an ancient piece of wood with cryptic code on it. Mitch shows up to try to get the wood piece but Ben being smart runs a red light showing the wood to the front of window and the London traffic cameras take a picture of the piece. Ben throws it into the lake and gets Riley to hack into the database to retrieve a copy. One of Mitch's goons gets it from the lake.
Ben knows there is one person that can translate it, his mother Emily Appleton (Helen Mirren) (Patrick's ex-wife) and Patick does not want to see her. Finally Ben convinces him, they go to her office where Ben is very cordial, but Patrick and Emily are very cold to each other. She translates the pieces she can, but claims it is partial because there is a piece missing. This leads them to the other Resolute Desk, inside the White House, in the Oval Office. Ben convinces Abigail to use Connor to get into the Oval Office, claiming she dropped her ear ring and for Connor to help her look for it. This gives Ben enough time to look at the desk and realize the part where the wood piece should be is missing, but there is an interesting mark on the inside bearing the seal of the Book of Secrets.
Riley informs Ben that the only way to see the book is to become President. Ben states that he is going to kidnap the President. He goes to the President's birthday party at Mt. Vernon and convinces the President to go on an excursion to a secret tunnel and gets him alone to confront him about the Book of Secrets. The President informs him that it does in fact exist and that he needs to go to the Library of Congress to find the book XY 234786, he needs to remember a four digit code (it escapes me at this time) and look at page 47. The President informs him that if Ben finds the city of gold that he will free him of all charges, but if not, he will be charged with kidnapping the President. At this time, he is a known convict because he kidnapped the President and things need to be done in a hurry.
He gets into the Library, uses the four digit code to get in a secret door, finds where the book should be and there is a latch above the books with six numbers. He puts in the six digits the President told him, finds the book, finds a picture of the wood, takes a picture of it with his phone and sends it to his father, which Mitch intercepts and Mitch goes to Emily before Patrick gets a chance. Patrick is informed by his wife that they need to go to Mt Rushmore for the last secret. Mitch hears this from the other room and decides to go too. Waiting for them are Abigail, Patrick, Ben and Riley, but Mitch has Emily in captivity. Ben convinces Mitch to come with him, but no weapons will be brought. Ben uses the next clue to figure out they need to use all their water to find a hidden spot and Ben pulls a lever to open a door covered with rocks. The place they are looking for is Cibola, the legendary city of gold.
Emily and Patrick and separated from the others. Ben, Riley, Abigail and Mitch all walk onto a large platform with a central wood piece holding it up and all people need to balance the others. The way to get out is through a rope ladder much higher then they can reach. They figure out that three of them need to be on one end lifting one of them up. Mitch goes first with the others at the other end, then Abigail goes next, but the contraption begins to buckle, Riley makes a run for it, grabs the ladder and Abigail pushes a large gold piece that will counteract the weight and get Ben to the ladder. They get up there with the help up Mitch and walk into an area where water is pouring down and they realize the water mush be draining somewhere. So they stop the water and walk down to reveal the city of gold. Emily and Patrick show up from a different part. Riley hears a cracking and the water is starting to come through. There is a turntable-style object that opens the drain and people are able to get out, but it has to be held open by someone. Mitch forces Ben to stay and hold a drain open while the rest them escape, but the water is too much and forces Ben off the turntable-style thing keeping Mitch there saving the rest of them. Mitch tells Ben to tell the rest of the world that he found Cibola.
Ben, Abigail and Riley are escorted into a hangar with the President standing there freeing them of all charges. The President informs Ben that there will be an article in tomorrow's paper showing that he found the City of Gold. Ben tells him that it was also Mitch that helped. Ben and the President then walk away and the President asks if Ben saw what was on page 47 and Ben says he thinks he can help with that. Abigail and Ben make up and Riley is walking home and notices his red Ferrari with a note from the President. Inside it says "Tax-free."
*CUT TO THE CHASE*
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Ben finds the City of Gold.
Wilkinson drowns while saving Ben and the others by holding the flood door.
Thomas Gates's name is cleared.
Ben and Abigail and Ben's Parents make up.
Riley finds a girlfriend and gets a tax free statement from the President.
Thanks for this moviepooper Nathan!
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