An alone Indiana Jones in the 1960s suddenly finds himself in the middle of the action when an old enemy returns.
Grab the hat and whip because the man, the legend, Indiana Jones is back in Indiana Jones And The Dial of Destiny. The film itself may have been put on the backburner for some film lovers due to the saturation of ads for Mission Impossible and Barbie but this rightfully should be one of the most eagerly anticipated films of the year.
It is understandable that some film fans will be nervous about what to expect from this film. The first three Indiana Jones movies were masterpieces that saw two of Hollywood filmmaking legends – Steven Spielberg and George Lucas – come together to create a franchise that would ultimately be loved by a generation of movie goers. But then came the ill-fated 2008 re-boot and that has many nervous of what to expect this time around – after all that had Spielberg and Lucas involved and was still hated by true fans.
Now with director James Mangold (Walk The Line) in the director’s chair Indiana Jones And The Dial Of Destiny starts at the end of World War II with Indy (Harrison Ford – Star Wars) working with fellow historian Basil Shaw (Toby Jones – The Hunger Games) to rescue a sacred artifact from the Nazis.
However, they soon discover that they artefact they were after was fake but instead find themselves in possession of something that many say is far more valuable – part of the infamous Archimedes Dial – a device that could for ever change human history.
Flashforward to 1969 and Indy is living a sad existence. His son died in the Vietnam War and he and his wife are separated. He spends his days teaching uninterested students at a university but is also facing an impending retirement.
Things suddenly change though when his God-daughter, Basil’s daughter, Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge – Goodbye Christopher Robin, turns up asking questions about the dial and talking about how trying to solve its mystery had caused her father to go mad before he passed away.
Indy takes Helena to his piece of the dial but as they do they suddenly find themselves being pursued by the CIA and former Nazi turned hero Dr Voller (Mads Mikkelsen – Doctor Strange) who is determined to find all the pieces of the dial and begin a history changing event.
For those that are worried that this going to end up another ordinary Indy film, like 2008’s Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull you can breath a sigh of relief because very early on here you realise that Mangold truly understands the legacy that Spielberg and Lucas set up and does nothing but try to emulate it here.
Once Voller and the CIA come after Indy and Helena the films turns into a non-stop action ride – but more in the old-school style of 1980s films rather than the bigger is better nature of films in the Fast & Furious franchise. Here cars jumping between buildings is replaced by tuk-tuk chases and tense moments in boats revealing that Mangold is a filmmaker that truly understands that sometimes it is the simpler things that often create the most suspense for the audience.
Also key to Dial Of Destiny working is the fact that the characterisation comes to the fore. The screenplay allows for Harrison Ford to play Indy the way that he has been for forty years – gruff with a caring heart. The script also brings more tension to the plot by allowing the audience to see very early on that Helena is a tricky character – while it often appears that she cares for those around here there are other times when all she is thinking about is the mighty dollar. That unpredictability with her means that not only is she an interesting character but again she is a great source for the suspense that is ever present throughout this film.
The film does have some weaknesses – characters like Teddy (Ethann Isidore – Mortel) feel like a waste of screen time while it almost feels criminal to underuse an actor with the talents of Antonio Banderas (The Mask of Zorro) the way this film does. Perhaps the greatest weakness of the film though is one fo the events towards the end of this film. Some fans of the franchise will love it will others may see it as the point that Indiana Jones jumped the shark.
The one thing that can’t be faulted with this film though are the performances. Harrison Ford does not let age slow him down at all and he never misses a beat throughout the film – even the CGI at the start of the film to make him look younger works remarkably well and is believe. Like Ford Mads Mikkelson relishes his role – and let’s be honest nobody quite plays an evil, menacing role like he does. Once again here he excels. Phoebe Waller-Bridge also does an amazing job in her role. As previously mentioned her character flips between good and bad at will and she handles both sides of her character remarkably well.
Thankfully Indiana Jones And The Dial of Destiny doesn’t fall into the traps that many Hollywood reboots have done over the years. Crazy ideas like a much younger romantic lead opposite Harrison Ford would have sunk this film but thankfully Mangold is the type of filmmaker that honours what the filmmakers before him have done with such an iconic franchise such as this. This film looks and films like it could have been shot in the 1980s and should be enjoyed by those who fell in love with the original films.