Friday, June 30, 2023

Review: "INDIANA JONES and the Dial of Destiny" is a Wonderful Final Adventure

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 29 of 2023 (No. 1918) by Leroy Douresseaux

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (1989)
Running time:  154 minutes (2 hours, 34 minutes)
MPA – PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, language and smoking
DIRECTOR:  James Mangold
WRITERS:  Jez Butterworth & John-Henry Butterworth and David Koepp & James Mangold (based on characters created by George Lucas and Philip Kaufman)
PRODUCERS:  Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall, and Simon Emanuel
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Phedon Papamichael (D.o.P.)
EDITORS:  Andrew Buckland, Michael McCusker, and Dick Westervelt
COMPOSER:  John Williams


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

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is a 2023 action-adventure film directed by James Mangold.  It is the fifth entry in the “Indiana Jones” film franchise that began with the 1981 film, Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Dial of Destiny finds Indiana Jones racing to retrieve a legendary artifact from a Nazi who wants change the course of history.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny opens in 1944, deep inside Europe during the Allied liberation of World War II.  Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones, Jr. (Harrison Ford) and his colleague and fellow archaeologist, Basil Shaw (Toby Jones), are both captured by Nazis while attempting to retrieve “the Lance of Longinus.”  This relic is also known as the “Spear of Destiny,” the lance that is alleged to have pierced the side of Jesus Christ.  Adolf Hitler believes it can save him and his dying Third Reich.

However, Nazi scientist Jürgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen) believes that he has found part of the relic that can save the Nazis, the “Antikythera”or “Archimedes's Dial,” a device created by the ancient Greek mathematician, Archimedes,  Voller believes that if he can make the device whole it is capable of locating fissures in time.  As usual, Indiana Jones foils the Nazis.

A quarter-century later, in August 1969, Jones is retiring from his position as a professor and instructor at Hunter College.  He is approached by Helena “Wombat” Shaw (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), Jones' goddaughter and Basil Shaw's daughter.  She has come looking for the Dial, but she isn't the only one.  A Nazi ghost from Indiana Jones' past also wants to retrieve the Dial and to find its missing half.  Can Indiana Jones, now an old man, find the will for one more adventure to save the world from Nazi machinations?  Can he really trust his own goddaughter's motivations?

In preparation for Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, I recently watched Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in its entirety for the first time in over two decades.  I have seen the first film, Raiders of the Lost Ark, countless times, and I re-watched its follow-up, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), in November of last year (2022).  I have watched the fourth film in the series, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), many times since its release.

I am happy to report that Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is the best Indiana Jones since Temple of Doom.  It is a bit long and drags in the middle, but when it is time to deliver the old-fashioned Indiana Jones thrills, this film brings it with renewed freshness.  The two street chases, one in New York and one in Tangier, Morocco, kept me on the edge of my seat.  Indiana Jones on a horse tearing through the streets and subways of NYC is every bit as good as it could be.

Dial of Destiny is also blessed by Phoebe Waller-Bridge as Helena Shaw.  The script presents a very well conceived and executed character, and Bridge turns her into a character that can match Indiana Jones step for step.  Hers is not the only high-quality supporting character, but this film could not work without Waller-Bridge playing Shaw the way she does.

The best Indiana Jones villains are the Nazis, and Mads Mikkelsen as Voller and Boyd Holbrook as Klaber, Voller's crazy and homicidal lackey, gives us Nazis worthy of not only being punched, but also of being killed.  It's good to see that the Indiana Jones franchise makes Nazis plainly and clearly evil.  There isn't any “good people on both sides here” double talk in this movie.

No, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas do not return for Dial of Destiny, being listed in the credits as “executive producers.”  James Mangold has replaced Spielberg as director, and he does a much better job with this film than I expected.  Lucas has co-written the story for the previous films doesn't for this one, but the spirit of adventure and mystery he first imagined decades ago is strong in Dial of Destiny.

I understand that some viewers may be put off by the age of Dial of Destiny's star and title character.  I like that Dial of Destiny does not hesitate to grapple with Indiana Jones' age and about the grief and regret that have become a big part of his life.  It is nice to see returning supporting characters, Sallah (John Rhys-Davies) and Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), although it is a bit off-putting not seeing them so much older.  Still, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, with its themes of time and tide, of change, of new eras, of aging, of a hero in the sunset of his life, offers a perfect good-bye to a beloved hero.  It says that there is still a story to tell, but the story we followed for so long … well, that's over.

7 of 10
★★★½ out of 4 stars

Friday, June 30, 2023

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