With a long running film series, it’s almost impossible to disentangle it from the weft and weave of your life.
The emotions felt in distant days, rich memories, that bittersweet awareness of the person you once were when you started watching, and of time passing, and change, all of it colours the present and strips away an objective view.
I’ve had a long, personal relationship with Indiana Jones. When I first saw Raiders of the Ark, it instantly chimed with a deep and long-developed part of me, particularly that sense of numinous mystery that lies behind the patina of everyday life, something that Spielberg always did so well.
Technically Raiders is a brilliantly constructed movie, the pacing, the lightness of touch, the humour, the clearly and powerfully defined characters and that old-fashioned sense of adventure stitched through with romanticism that you wouldn’t – couldn’t – get in today’s more cynical age.
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is a strong ending to a forty-two year old story. And it is an ending, a proper wrap-up of the themes and character stories of the previous four movies. If you’re engaged with the characters, the final scene will bring a tear to your eye.
The film has its flaws – it’s too long, the chase sequences seem to go on forever, there’s no humour and no lightness of touch. Director James Mangold does a fair job of aping Spielberg, but there’s a heaviness to his work that drags where it should fly. As much as I love Fleabag, I found Phoebe Waller-Bridge a tad irritating and there was zero chemistry between the two leads.
And yet it was still a great instalment in the series and far, far better than the previous entry. The World War II opening with a young Harrison Ford, his unlined face pulled together from off-cuts and unused scenes from Raiders, captures the essence of the old movies. A sequence set at a ticker tape parade for the returning astronauts in the sixties works well and Mads Mikkelson makes a good villain. Let’s face it, Indiana Jones was made to fight Nazis, as indeed are we all.
But it’s the character stuff that really sings, an ageing, bereft Indy, detached from the things he loves, desperately trying to find meaning in a world that’s leaving him behind. We’re all going to experience that at some point.
Harrison Ford is great, as always, and this is a fitting send-off to a man who defined a certain kind of heroism.