The new Indiana Jones movie, the final part of a story that began more than 40 years ago with Raiders of The Lost Ark (1981), once caused a riot at Cannes. The press and the public also competed to buy tickets. The number of paparazzi gathered around the Grand Theater Lumiere, where the film was shown, increased dramatically. Fate dial may be showing non-competitively but it’s the only world premiere that everyone wants to see. An added appeal has been shown by the fact that Harrison Ford has confirmed this will be his last gig as Indiana. At the world premiere, the elderly actor was very emotional when he received the honorary Palme d’Or from festival director Thierry Fremaux.
Ford is usually in reliable form in Fate dial but the film itself is sprawling and very uneven. It starts off promisingly with an action sequence at the end of World War II, in which somehow, using CGI magic, Indiana is shown as a young man fighting the Nazis. This is the first time he encounters the villainous Jurgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen). This prelude delivers exactly what you’d expect from an Indiana Jones adventure: chases, fires, and an epic fight scene on top of a fleeing train. Toby Jones registers strongly as Indy’s companion, Basil Jones, a small, eccentric but heroically loyal English scholar who helps Indiana survive.
Then we are transported to the late 1960s, the era of The Beatles and the space program. Indiana is in New York, about to retire from the university where he teaches. His students can barely stay awake in his classroom. Basil’s daughter Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) appears at one of his lectures. He is her godfather but hasn’t seen her in years.
Ford’s age is not overlooked. In fact, it was one of the origins of the plot. Age has made Indiana Jones more sly than the previous four films. There was constant mention of his aches and pains, “broken vertebrae” and his declining stamina. He was called an “ancient grave thief” at one stage. Yet he still climbs the rock faces and swings that old whip with the elan that generations of fans have loved.
Helena reminds him of a mysterious antique clock he found on a train escape during the war. He will soon be competing for it with Voller, who has changed his name and is now working on the American space program. The dial was designed by Archimedes thousands of years ago. If its two halves are put together, its owner will be able to jump through time.
The film consists of a series of chases and fights linked by ever more complex plots. The action is often very creatively choreographed. James Mangold, who has taken over directing duties from Steven Spielberg, sets a dizzying pace. A brave early episode involves Indiana riding a cop’s horse down the subway with his villains in hot pursuit.
Waller-Bridge’s Helena is an astonishing presence: an intellectually brilliant female adventurer, as well as a mercenary and con man. Her partnership with Indiana is a bit strained. It was clear that there was no spark of romance between them – he was too old for her. She’s unusually cheerful, squealing with excitement in a scene after someone close to Indiana has just been killed.
Tonally, the film oscillates. It pulls in too many different directions at once. On the one hand, this is an exercise in affectionate nostalgia. Otherwise, like its predecessors, it’s an old-fashioned lighting adventure in which the characterization is purposefully extended. Some episodes are savvy and ironic, while others seem painfully innocent.
Fans of the franchise will still find plenty to enjoy. Indiana and Helena struggled with insects and hanged from the wings of the plane. There are deep sea diving and cave scenes. However, the screenplay by Jazz Butterworth, John Henry Butterworth and David Kopek, at times seems like an amalgamation of elements from old movies strung together in a scattered gun fashion. In the final reel, the film falls into utter absurdity. Harrison Ford was a hero of his time. He never lost his scowl or stubbornness. He plays even the most fragile scenes with conviction and dry humor. His performance carries the whole movie. Age can’t wither him one bit but the franchise itself looks a bit ragged. This is a good time to put an end to it.
Directed by: James Mangold; Actors: Harrison Ford, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Antonio Banderas, John Rhys-Davies, Toby Jones, Boyd Holbrook, Ethann Isidore, Mads Mikkelsen.
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny hits theaters June 30