Monday, March 4, 2024

Movie Review (Cannes Film Festival 2023): ‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’ Checks All the Boxes of a Good Adventure Flick


Director: James Mangold

Writer: Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, David Koepp, James Mangold

Stars: Harrison Ford, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Mads Mikkelsen

Synopsis: Archaeologist Indiana Jones races against time to retrieve a legendary artifact that can change the course of history.


A nostalgic send off of a beloved character, a fitting addition to a treasured franchise, or perhaps a mixture of the two, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny could easily fit into both categories. Mangold takes the reins on this fifth and final installment to do his very best at achieving an action-packed film teeming with quirky jokes, nostalgic callbacks and enough charm and wit to do the infamous “Indy” justice. The film is by no means perfect, though long-time fans should have fun with this ‘last hurrah’ for the legendary adventurer. 

Harrison Ford is back as Indy and up to his old hijinks in the brand new installment out of Cannes. With the magic of visual effects, the film opens with a startlingly young looking explorer in the middle of his usual old antics, tussling with nemesis Jürgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen), a former WWII Nazi Scientist. It’s an exciting opening scene with fights atop a moving train and plenty of charm, but we don’t stay here for long. Soon, we jump from the past to present and are introduced to a handful of new characters such as Helena Shaw (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), the now-grown daughter of Indy’s old sidekick Basil Shaw, played by Toby Jones. Trailing alongside Helena is Teddy (Ethann Isidore), a teenage pickpocket and sidekick whose loyalty and allegiance lies with her, aiding Helena in her escapades. With this new cast of characters introduced, pandemonium begins and the adventure is afoot.

Though the adventure afoot unfortunately isn’t quite what it used to be. With lackluster jokes, a number of classically predictable chase scenes and some underdeveloped new characters, the ventures are entertaining for sure, but overwhelmingly average. There’s nothing terribly wrong or disastrous with any aspect of the film, but there’s an old spark that used to exist in the franchise that just isn’t present with this one. A slew of characters embarking on a global chase to locate the ‘Dial of Destiny’  is fun and intriguing enough, but could be more-so. A few risks in the writing of the plot or characters by the film’s four writers could’ve gone a long way in adding something a bit more unique and memorable to this final Indy film, but it commits to what it is well enough.

On a technical note the film has much to boast about. From appealing cinematography by Phedon Papamichael and score by the infamous John Williams, it surely appeases the senses. Nostalgia is the absolute powerhouse that drives this film from the sentimental music to how it’s captured on screen, and is one of its saving graces through and through. A new generation of movie-goers will be able to experience an “Indiana Jones” title on the big screen for the first time, and long time fans should be eager to catch another final theatrical glimpse of their favorite whip-cracking swashbuckler set to the all-too-familiar theme song once more.

The performances are good enough, believable and entertaining, though the standout is assuredly Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Helena. With her witty quips and well timed humor, she may tap into a bit of her go-to ‘Fleabag’ here and there, but she’s the one that earned most laughs from the audience and seems to fit into the Indy universe with ease. Ford is steady and seasoned, giving a solid final performance and going out on an undeniably emotional though honorable note. Mikkelson as Voller is an intriguing villain and fun addition to the film, but isn’t given much to work with and lacks in screen time and material, which is a shame due to the fact his performance and character held a lot of campy ‘bad guy’ potential. 

Though it’s fun to see the seasoned and beloved fedora-adorned explorer back in action, it’s a bit of an unnecessary addition to an already complete franchise. Perhaps overwhelmingly average, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny isn’t an outright disaster by any means, it checks all the boxes of a good adventure flick, though it certainly lacks the tangible charm of the Spielberg installments. Maybe the franchise should’ve been left as is, but seeing as it wasn’t, this final swan song of a film is fine enough and is sure to strum at least a string of heartwarming nostalgia into even the most cynical or doubtful viewer.

Grade: C+

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