There comes a moment when you see a man on horseback chased by agents through a parade, racing down into a subway and then trying to outrun a speeding train. You can only shake your head and laugh, "Only Indiana Jones.”
This weekend saw the premiere of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, the fifth and likely final film in the acclaimed franchise. Coming 15 years after the divisive Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, it’s Harrison Ford once more bidding farewell to an iconic role after Han Solo. So how does the final adventure of the world’s greatest archaeologist unfold?
The movie opens with a fantastic prologue set in 1944 as Indy and his friend Basil Shaw (Toby Jones) infiltrate a castle in Germany to steal the legendary Spear of Destiny. Instead, they run into Nazi scientist Voller (Mads Mikkelsen), who wants to gain the Antikythera, an ancient device created by Archimedes.
The sequence is superb, as the CGI making Ford look thirty years younger is amazingly well done. It’s packed with action and thrills aboard a train and just what an Indy movie made in the 1990s would have looked like.
Cut to 1969 as an older Indy is a shell of himself. His son, Mutt, was killed in Vietnam, Marion has left him, he’s been pushed into retirement and feels lost amid the counter-cultural movement and the moon landings. Enter Basil’s daughter Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), who wants to find the Dial herself. It’s not long before Indy realizes Helena has her own agenda. He also clashes with Voller, who is now working for NASA and wants the Antikythera to change history.
The sight of Indy looking so old and tired may be striking, but it humanizes him. Even the legendary adventurer is not immune to age. Ford channels that world-weariness into Indy yet keeps what makes the character work, from the dry humor to the brilliant scholar who can unlock mysteries. He also proves he can still handle himself in a fight and throws himself into the action scenes with relish. It’s clear Ford always loved this role and brings his charms to it for one last ride.
Waller-Bridge matches him well as Helena, with her own sass and a tough attitude. She’s all about the money; however, her charm is great and helps smooth over her rough edges by the end. Mikkelsen is a terrific villain, tired of working for “the enemy” and truly thinking he can change things for the better. Yet it’s fun at the end when he’s overwhelmed by things unraveling around him.
For the supporting cast, Ethan Isidore has a fun drive as Tommy, Helena’s young helper who gets into scrapes. It’s also great seeing John Rhys-Davies as Sallah, although it’s a shame there’s not much more for Antonio Banderas (as a boat captain) and Sahuntee Renee Wilson (a tough agent) to do. At least the movie uses its huge budget well, from international scenes to a creepy underwater sequence. And legendary composer John Williams once again provides a great score. James Mangold does a good job of copying the feel of a Spielberg film, with touches from red lines on a map to the use of shadows to highlight the quieter moments.
The action is frantic throughout the film as we experience everything from a chase during a New York City parade to a wild car sequence in Tangiers. The climax will undoubtedly elicit a lot of talk. Some will perhaps find it too fantastic while others may feel it fits the mythos. If nothing else, the final scene is a beautiful coda that brings Indy’s story to a proper close.
It might feel overlong at two and a half hours, but from the terrific opening to its warm end, this feels like a true Indiana Jones adventure. Ford adds new gravitas to the role and Waller-Bridge is a good match for him. While a few story beats may be rough, it’s overall an excellent way to see Indy off and so worth enjoying his final adventure.