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June 30, 2023 / Walt Disney Pictures Canada

Starring: Harrison Ford, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Antonio Banderas, Karen Allen, John Rhys-Davies, Shaunette Renée Wilson, Thomas Kretschmann, Toby Jones, Boyd Holbrook, Olivier Richters, Ethann Isidore, Mads Mikkelsen

Directed By: James Mangold

In 1969, American archaeologist and adventurer Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is living against the backdrop of the space race — but the American effort to beat the Russians to the moon brings with it some uncomfortable truths for Indy. He's uneasy over the fact that the U.S. government has hired former Nazis to run the moon-landing program. His goddaughter, Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), accompanies him on his current journey to obtain a mystical relic.

Meanwhile, Jürgen Voller (Mads Mikkleson), a NASA member and one of the aforementioned former Nazis, is involved with the moon-landing program. He wishes to correct some of the mistakes of the past as he sees fit, by getting the same mystical relic that Indie is after.

Written By Darren

Rating 4 out of 5

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny sees Harrison Ford return for one final adventure as one of cinema’s most beloved characters of all time, and while it falls short of the standard set by the original trilogy, it is a triumphant and beautiful farewell to a character that is immortalized as part of cinematic history.

Audiences last saw Indiana Jones in the incredibly divisive Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which I have been a supporter of since day one. Now, fifteen years later Harrison Ford returns to his most famous role for one last hoorah on the big screen. It’s an event that no cinephile is ready for, as saying goodbye to Indiana Jones is no easy task, but the entire film is handled with grace and respect for the character and the legacy of the franchise by director James Mangold. The result is a summer blockbuster formed out of nostalgia for the beloved franchise and adventure genre, which is exactly what the character and fans need for this goodbye.

On the eve of his retirement as an archeology professor, Indiana Jones is tracked down by his goddaughter Helena Shaw. Picking up where her father left off, she is in search of the mythic Antikythera, Archimedes’s Dial which is believed to hold the power to change the course of history. But an old enemy of Indy’s is also in search for the lost dial, hoping to right the Nazi mistakes during World War II, pulling Indy out of retirement for one final adventure as he races against a group of Nazis to find the Antikythera.

Being set at the end of the 1960s, this is a very different world than all previous Indiana Jones films. Humanity is obsessed with space exploration, having forgotten about the past and the relics that Indiana Jones had raced against the villains to uncover in his previous adventures. By doing so, Indy himself is treated as a relic of the past, forgotten for his achievements and heroic deeds. But with the race to get the Antikythera, Indy is slowly revived over the course of the film, becoming the hero once again that audiences have always known him to be. It’s a slow progression over the course of the film that may be missed by the average viewer. It’s built in the quieter moments of the film, with characters such as Sallah or as Indy reflects on his life and what he’s lost, building towards that final act. The final act itself is sure to divide audiences for being far-fetched, but when you think that this franchise has involved melting faces, hearts being ripped out of chests still beating, and aliens, it really isn’t that unimaginable that what unfolds could happen in this world. Though, for a character that has spent his entire life studying and uncovering the past, what that final act does to immortalize Indy as a pillar of history is the most touching sendoff the character can be given. So when the final scene is reached and that one line is spoken, it hits an emotional note that makes the true purpose of the film evident, enough to make any long time Indiana Jones fan cry. Yes, the film revolves around the search for the Antikythera and a former Nazi trying to correct the Nazi’s failures in World War II, but that is merely the vehicle to give Indiana Jones his most personal story to date and the sendoff both he and the audience deserves.

With Harrison Ford being in his late seventies while shooting the film, the film’s story had to adapt itself to its leading star’s age, and the screenplay does a wonderful job of that. The action scenes are tailored so that Ford is front and center during them without allowing his age to hinder the excitement, having Indy driving vehicles and still managing to punch out the odd character. Director James Mangold supports this with his vision for the film, giving Indy these grand moments throughout the film with some outstanding set pieces. The opening Germany sequence starts the film off with a bang, while the New York parade sequence and the big final act set piece are exciting and give that grand adventure feel that the previous films in the franchise all had. Mangold is missing that spark that Steven Spielberg and George Lucas infused the previous four films with that made Indiana Jones a pillar in adventure cinema. He imitates that magic that fans associate with the franchise, but he never finds it honestly through his direction.

The adventure at the center of the story is fine. The Antikythera is an interesting MacGuffin for Indy to track down, while the adventure to find it is essentially a greatest hits reel of the franchise. We have bugs, a train sequence, and the classic gun moment that every Indiana Jones film has. It possesses the right amount of nostalgia that longtime fans of the series will want from the film, while still feeling distinct enough from the other films to stand on its own. It’s without question better than Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which I still think is a fun movie, but the film is too long and could have benefited from being about twenty minutes shorter as the long run time does become evident in the film’s middle act.

Leading the film with a magnificent performance is Harrison Ford. He captures the nuances of Indy’s emotional journey to rediscover himself with a heartbreaking beauty that tugs on the heart strings throughout the film. In terms of being an action star, Ford still has that natural screen presence that prevents you from taking your eyes off him as he dons that hat and whip for one last adventure. If there was any doubt in your mind, his final outing as Indiana Jones cements Ford as one of the greatest movie stars of all time. Though, it is newcomer Phoebe Waller-Bridge that consistently steals the show. As Indy’s goddaughter Helena, Waller-Bridge brings a wicked comedic timing to the film that lightens the mood throughout while bringing to life a morally ambiguous character that while you don’t question that she is a hero, is a character who is purely looking out for herself. Her chemistry with Ford is instant and wonderful, creating a wonderful father-daughter relationship on screen that helps bring Indy back to his former self. You’ll either love her or hate her, but I just felt that cinematic bliss of a summer blockbuster emanate from her in every scene. If there is any question as to where the franchise could continue the story, the answer is with Waller-Bridge’s Helena continuing to search out lost relics as her godfather did.

There is no question that the film belongs to Ford and Waller-Bridge, but the supporting cast is good. Mads Mikkelsen is the perfect casting choice for the film’s villain, Jürgen Voller, bringing a natural wickedness to the film as well as a calculating nature that makes him a great match for Indy, even if the character is underdeveloped in the script. Boyd Holbrook is great as one of Voller’s goons, fitting perfectly into the world of Indiana Jones. Though it is the returning stars to the franchise who make the biggest splash. John Rhys-Davies is wonderful as Sallah, creating one of the most beautiful moments of the film as he drops Indy off at the airport and sends him on his adventure, while another major star’s return is everything that Indy’s story needed to be truly completed in this film and my personal favourite scene of the film.

Much like the previous films, Mangold has an emphasis on practical effects. It’s noticeable in the action scenes where there is a sense of urgency, while the production design utilizes natural locations rather than CGI backdrops to create the globetrotting adventure of the film. When the film does rely on CGI, most notably during the opening sequence where Harrison Ford is de-aged, it looks great and shows how far the de-aging technology has come as CGI is used to enhance the practical effects rather than overtake them. Though, it is John Williams’s musical score that truly brings the film to life. Sprinkling “Raiders March” throughout the film to coincide with moments where the audience has glimpses of Indy becoming a hero once again, Williams’s new themes take precedent and work wonders throughout the film. It truly reminds you how brilliant of a composer that Williams is and how he can single handedly make a film an exciting and emotional journey with only a handful of notes. Though, the musical highlight of his score is during the first few minutes of the credits as Williams goes all out with a grand rendition of the “Raiders Theme” to close out the film, which is likely the last time audiences are to hear that iconic theme in a theater for a very long time.

There was never a doubt in my mind that Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny would eclipse the original trilogy of films that made Indiana Jones the iconic character he is, but James Mangold does everything that fans of the series need from this film to bid farewell to everyone’s favourite archeologist. For a final adventure, this is the most personal story for Indiana Jones to date and hits all the emotional notes that audiences could want as they say goodbye to Harrison Ford’s iconic character with a terrific performance from him to send Indy off into the sunset one last time, combined with a scene stealing performance from Phoebe Waller-Bridge and a rousing musical score from the legendary John Williams, makes Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny an exciting summer blockbuster that is reminiscent of the blockbusters of yesteryears.

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