It’s Harrison Ford’s final crack at playing Indiana Jones – and his fifth time out as the great adventuring archaeologist is much more than a fond farewell.
Indiana Jones And The Dial of Destiny, which premiered this month at Cannes Film Festival, begins with a barnstorming opening sequence set in 1944 in which Indy is being held captive by the Nazis. Having escaped death by hanging, the good Doctor Jones battles his way through and atop a speeding train to save his pal Basil Shaw (Toby Jones) and an ancient dial – part of something called the Antikythera Mechanism – built by Greek genius Archimedes. It’s here that our hero has his first punch-up with evil scientist Jürgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen). Ford is de-aged but the tech looks decent. It also helps that the now 80-year-old hasn’t lost a step since Raiders Of The Lost Ark.
Next we leap to New York in 1969 where Indy is rudely awakened by his hippy neighbours cranking up The Beatles. We see Indy delivering a lecture to bored students in a hall and it bears amusing comparison to the scene in Raiders where a class of keen academics are enraptured by their suave teacher. The only person interested in his chat this time though is Helena Shaw, the late Basil’s daughter and Indy’s goddaughter. She’s brilliantly played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, as charismatic and energetic as in Fleabag or elsewhere. Outside, man’s first trip to the moon is the subject of a great parade through the city. Of course, that’s interrupted in spectacular fashion when a group of Voller’s cronies track the pair down, the most interesting of whom is played by Shaunette Renée Wilson (also seen in Black Panther). Indy and Helena, the latter bestowed with the affectionate nickname “Wombat” by her godfather, soon hotfoot it to Tangiers, Morocco, in an attempt to find the missing half of the dial. It’s a good job, too, as Indy’s apartment is pretty poky and hardly befitting of the great adventurer, even if that side of his employment is kept hush-hush.
So, plotwise, it’s Indiana Jones as usual – dangerous, globetrotting hi-jinks with a pal, trying to keep an old artefact from the clutches of the Nazis. We know Ford is always mint as his career-best character (Indy just beats Han Solo to it in our book) and Dial Of Destiny is no exception. Waller-Bridge makes for a dependable sidekick, though that word is a disservice. She’s more equal partner than lowly helper – which is a relief. After all, Karen Allen, Indy’s main squeeze Marion from two of the previous four movies, is a hard act to follow. Mikkelsen, meanwhile, makes for an even more chilling baddie than he did in Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore.
The biggest question – could another director succeed Steven Spielberg after four Indy films in a row – is also well-answered. James Mangold, who also co-wrote Dial Of Destiny with Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth and David Koepp, has a strong action CV that includes X-Men outings Wolverine and Logan. Here, he marshals frantic set pieces with plenty of quite noticeable CGI. This is perhaps sad for those weaned on the superb practical effects of earlier Indy outings. Still, it’s a lively, enthralling tale with some particularly emotive scenes in the final act that are bound to cause a tear or two. Some will ask why make this film at all? The answer should be, why not?