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Non-Review Review: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

I’ll admit that Raiders of the Lost Ark is probably the most technically magnificent of the Indiana Jones trilogy, but Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade has all the heart. It’s a surprisingly sweet, sensative and funny film, all wrapped inside the trappings that made Raiders of The Lost Ark so fantastic in the first place. That’s awesome of it itself. And then Spielberg goes and adds Sean Connery to the mix. Even more awesomeness ensues.

Harrison Ford and Sean Connery are on fire...

Harrison Ford and Sean Connery are on fire...

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was different enough that returning to the formula that made Raiders work doesn’t feel unnecessarily derivative at this stage. In fact, the movie was clearly intended as a coda, so echoing the first movie seems the logical step. Here we get Indy racing again against the Nazis for another historical artifact.

All the technical marvels that defined the earlier entries are there. Fantastic stuntwork. Check. Great music. Check. Harrison Ford playing the kind of matinee hero we just don’t see these days. Check. Even if it just had all these elements, it would be a great film, if slightly unoriginal. But Speilberg knows he has to up the game a little.

So he gives us Sean Connery. He also – for the first time – fully explores his issues with fathers on screen. Sure, he tangentially touched on it with Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but that’s a rather crude example that isn’t fully formed. Catch Me If You Can had the dysfunctional Abigail family, but that was quite a bit off. The absentee father is one of the core themes present throughout Spielberg’s back catalog. Here he actually explores the issue in some depth. It’s a search for his father which sparks the adventure, and it’s not at all cheesy when it turns out that the Holy Grail isn’t the only treasure to be found on this journey.

There’s a lovely intimate humour that underlines the scenes between the two. For example, as Indy takes out several motor-biking Nazis, smiling and laughing as he typically does, only to shut up on getting a stern look from his father. Or how Henry can’t admit his own failings, even when he accidentally shreds the tail fin of their biplane (“I’m sorry, son… They got us.”). It helps that Connery and Ford have fantastic charisma that really ties the film together.

I’ve mentioned the stuntwork, but it really bears mentioning again. The action sequences are breath taking. From the aforementioned motorbike chase to the climactic tank sequence (which fittingly ranks with the boulder chase as the series’ finest action sequence), everything is bigger and better than what came before. And that’s quite difficult.

The movie may not work as well on its own as Raiders does, but you really couldn’t have asked for a better coda to a fantastic trilogy.

2 Responses

  1. looks like Germany’s declared war on the Jones boys… great film

  2. […] film includes any number of visual and thematic references to cinematic classics – Star Wars, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and The Wizard of Oz spring to mind. There’s also – as one would expect from Pixar […]

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