For 42 years the face of adventure movies has been Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones. The four movies that debuted in 1981 with Raiders of the Lost Ark right through to 2008’s Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the question has already been, who will take up the mantle next after Ford undoubtedly bows out of this ageing franchise. Fresh to the franchise is director James Mangold who infuses this outing with enough nostalgia to keep fans of the series happy. while allowing newcomers to enjoy this swashbuckling adventure that offers a true blockbuster experience in this overly crowded summer movie season full of superheroes, robots and dolls.
The movie opens with one of the most breathtaking and action-packed sequences clearly showing that once again Indy and his fumbling sidekick Basil are up against the Nazis, who are hellbent on stealing an artefact that could potentially change their fate in the war. A de-aged Ford (and wonderfully so!) goes up against Nazi Jurgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen) as they fight for possessions of the Antikythera (the dial of Archimedes) This artefact is so powerful, it can detect ripples in time and send the holder back or forward. No guesses as to why the Nazis want it. The trouble is it has been ripped into two pieces and the location of the second piece is a complete mystery. Or is it?
After an explosive opening, the film leaps forward to the day of the moon landing in 1969. Indy is on the verge of retirement and has turned into a curmudgeon while the world is celebrating the achievement of putting a man on the moon. As he finishes his final lecture and prepares to move into his retirement, Helena aka Wombat (Phoebe Waller-bridge) the daughter of Basil and Indy’s goddaughter appears out of nowhere with questions about the dial. Voller reappears with the Nazis and are actively chasing the dial with the help of the CIA and Indy comes along for the ride.
Harrison truly shines as Indiana Jones in this outing, while he has always made this the character his career was built on, he shows us a different side of Indy here, one who is burnt by the effects of death, abandonment and the beginnings of starting to feel irrelevant. It is a great balance to get right and Ford delivers. Waller-bridge is fantastic as Helena and her constant movement between being on the same side as Indy and a money-loving opportunist is handled well. Mikkelsen definitely has more to offer, however, was clearly doing the best with what he was given. Seeing Nazis and the salute in a film again after recent events in the real world, it was refreshing to remind everyone just how evil they were in their heyday and still are now.
The film moves at an incredibly rapid pace despite its 2 hours and 22-minute runtime. The globe-trotting adventures from the USA, Morocco and Greece are showcased as only this franchise can. There are sprouts of dialogue between the action and the balance between these two things director James Mangold manages to pull off perfectly. There is an element of absurdity here that requires the viewer to completely suspend their belief and while it worked for me, it may not have the same effect on everyone. It truly is a laughable WTF moment that doesn’t hang around too long to anything less than an absurd obscurity that turns out was hinted at throughout the movie prior to that moment.
That being said, the core of who Indiana Jones and what this franchise represents is clearly on show here. The classic humour and larger-than-life action set pieces that make this franchise so iconic are all on clear display here. What Mangold adds is a large layer of emotion that cuts through the typical nostalgia bait that a film like this could easily slip into, instead offering a story that admits that it is the end of the line for Harrison Ford’s version of Indiana Jones and that this is ok, no amount of wishing for a continuation for this character is possible, it is ok to have the past and to look back on it fondly and for it to be done.
In an over-crowded movie season this year, Indiana Jones & The Dial of Destiny offers up a true blockbuster experience with over-the-top action sequences, jet-setting adventures with gorgeous location shots and a movie that you can take anyone at any age, regardless of their history with the franchise. Herein lies the true achievement of a fifth film in this series, even if you have no idea who the cameos are and nod to characters past, you can still enjoy the movie as a standalone swashbuckling adventure.
Indiana Jones & The Dial of Destiny is in cinemas now.
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