Nicolas Cage Flicks ‘Dream Scenario’ and ‘National Treasure’ Have One Thing in Common but a Major Difference Too

Published 11/11/2023, 2:55 PM EST

Dreams can bring you to your ruin. Not the general consensus but what the recent Nicolas Cage indie film, Dream Scenario, shows nevertheless. With what The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw calls the most “Nicolas Cagiest performance”, the actor manages to bring out the incredulity and nuances of internet fame with his latest. But there is more to the savagely humorous flick than a shot at cancel culture, fame, and dreams.

Dream Scenario holds a similarity with Cage’s 2004 flick National Treasure—a similarity that also showcases the actor’s prowess.

Disclaimer: Spoilers of Dream Scenario and National Treasure ahead


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Nicolas Cage as Paul: Two characters, a National Treasure and a Dream Scenario

When Jon Turteltaub and Nicola Cage joined hands and gave National Treasure in 2004, adventure movie enthusiasts got a guilty pleasure. Years later, when Cage graduated to doing indie films at large, he gave us a cutting, humorous character study with Dream Scenario. What ties these two very different movies apart from the leading man is a singular driving force: dreams. That, and of course the name Paul.

What was only an alias in National Treasure becomes the name on everyone’s phones (and dreams) in Dream Scenario. But beyond the name, you have these two vastly different characters with their lives revolving around dreams. One is striving to achieve his dreams, while the other is a mere spectator in other people’s dreams.

Paul Matthews in the A24 and Square Peg production is a remarkably boring man who is as passive as it gets. His passivity perhaps even kickstarts the whole thing, starting with his younger daughter, who first dreams of him doing nothing as she starts levitating. Meanwhile, Paul Brown (aka Benjamin Gates) is a passionate historian on a quest to find a treasure hidden for centuries by the Freemasons.


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And it is this aspect that makes for an interesting character study and where Cage’s acting prowess shines.

Paul vs Paul: Cage’s acting shines

Everyone is dreaming about Paul Matthews in Dream Scenario. He shoots to fame for the same reason why the dreams were fascinating to the dreamers: He did nothing. The dreams take a turn with Molly, whose sexual dreams about him he decides to reenact, only to be disrupted by the farts. Meanwhile, the very act intensifies his existing self-hatred and frustration with his non-action, which he finally expresses by throwing the clock in his room. What follows is people having violent dreams of him and the start of his downfall.

On the other hand, Brown/Gates in National Treasure is on a chase of a vast treasure his family has been trying to find with no luck. Having been imbibed by the curiosity and thirst for an adventure from a young age, he joins hands with a National Archives employee and computer expert to race with former treasure-hunting partner, Ian, to get to the secrets of The Charlotte. He perseveres through the ups and downs, going until he finds the very last clue.

The difference between the two characters and their motivations is obvious. But what is also staring you right in the face is Nicolas Cage, the actor, and his acting prowess. As his 2004 character, he showcased the suave and adventure-loving young man who wants to do the right thing even if it goes against the conventions. Switch to his latest and you see a morally questionable middle-aged man who seeks attention and validation.


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And with each character, Cage manages to show the minutiae but his Paul Matthews is a graduation of sorts from Benjamin Gates.

Dream Scenario: A step up for Cage


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Where Benjamin Gates was your run-of-the-mill 2000s action film character with the charisma, brain, and looks, Paul Matthews is a testament to subtlety. With a hunch and sometimes with a microexpression, Cage managed to bring out the inner workings of a frustrated middle-aged professor with a stagnant career. Letting the character steep before the eventual blow-up was the call for Dream Scenario and that he did with perfection.

In the process, however, the audience gets a delicious mix of black comedy and reality check. Matthews got the fame and later the boot for doing nothing. Inadvertently, he played the mirror to a society that thrives on chaos, cancels people for no grounds but also celebrates anyone who went “viral” for no reason, finds a way to monetize on anything, and holds little value for substance.


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Through it all, Nicolas Cage managed to be as interesting as cardboard.

Dream Scenario is currently in theaters near you, while National Treasure is streaming on Disney+Hotstar.



Parvathi Ajith

31 articles

Parvathi Ajith is a Hollywood news reporter and Editor at Netflix Junkie. So much is her love for reporting that she started her journey with an internship at New Indian Express where she covered all the hot news of the entertainment industry. With her prior experience of being an editor, she aims to do interviews and reviews here in NJ.