Review of 'Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny'

indiana_jones_and_the_dial_of_destiny.jpg In a trademark initial flashback sequence we see a younger Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) in 1944 captured by Nazis along with Oxford archeologist Basil Shaw (Toby Jones) as they attempt to retrieve the Lance of Longinus. Astrophysicist and Nazi Jürgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen) informs his superiors the Lance is fake but he has found half of Archimedes' Dial which it is rumoured can allow the bearer the ability to locate time fissures and allow time travel. Basil and Indy manage to escape with the half of the dial. In 1969 an elderly Indy is depressed, struggling with overwhelming grief over the loss of their son Mutt in the Vietnam War. Marion (Karen Allen) has filed for divorce and he is retiring as a professor. Jones' goddaughter, and Basil's daughter archaeologist Helena Shaw (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) visits looking for the half of the dial they found. Shaw escapes with the dial to auction on the black market while Voller, now working for NASA, chases Indy through the city, who escapes with the help of old friend Sallah (John Rhys-Davies), now a taxi driver. In Tangier Indy stops the illegal sale but Voller arrives and steals the dial piece pursued by Jones, Helena, and her teen sidekick and thief, Teddy Kumar (Ethann Isidore) in a temperamental tuk-tuk. Tracing Voller to Greece they dive on a ship wreck containing a map to the second piece…but they shortly have company.

Yeah, this is a lot of film with a real return to classic Indiana Jones. The initial sequence featuring a de-aged Harrison Ford is eerily convincing helped by the fact the actor voices and provides the movements for the digital avatar. After this seeing the character aged, depressed and only a shadow of his former self is both honest and very depressing making the film the journey of Indy finding his mojo again. It is great to see the familiar faces of Marion, and Sallah joined by the big names of Mads Mikkelsen, playing a suitably evil Nazi, and Toby Jones, playing a mild-mannered archaeologist. They all seem to work well together but it is the awkward trio of Indy, Helena and Teddy that is more grating with the later two starting out looking out for number one only but seem to unexpectedly take a turn for the good and work to help Indy. This transformation is never really explained, so perhaps simple osmosis?

The action sequences look great despite Indy being quite a bit older now. There is still a sense of joy and fun here that is a wonder to behold following the somewhat disappointing Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. This is a far more personal and realistic piece that thankfully does away with the idea of “passing the torch” to a rather irritating Shia LaBeouf. I feel it is a bit of a cop out to go for the obvious “Nazis as bad guy” trope but, of course, this is Indiana Jones all over. The ending is a bit of a stretch with a typical SF-y touch and with a slightly down-beat by satisfying final sequence back in the real world.

A lot of fun and great to see a better send off (perhaps?) than Crystal Skull.

Rating: “Nearly perfect, but not quite”

Review Date: 2023-07-16

Directed by: James Mangold

Studio: Walt Disney Pictures

Year: 2023

Length: 154 minutes

Genre: Action/Adventure

Other reviewed films by James Mangold: