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‘INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY’ Review: the cracking send-off Indy (and all his fans) deserved

With the fourth entry being widely regarded as by far the weakest in the franchise, everyone is hoping and praying that The Dial of Destiny will see a return to form for Indiana Jones, even more so given that Harrison Ford has said he chose this script as he felt this was the adventure that would bring closure to the saga allowing Indy to finally hang up his fedora. And we’re so happy to be able to report that he chose this script just as wisely as he chose the True Holy Grail.

Paying heavy homage to the third film in which our now veteran protagonist earned the moniker “Junior”, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny opens in 1944, during the Allied liberation of Europe in World War II. A brilliantly – albeit slightly distracting – de-aged Indy and his colleague Basil Shaw are taken prisoner by the Nazis while attempting to recover the Lance of Longinus. At the same time, astrophysicist Juergen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen in all his baddy glory) has recovered one third of Archimedes’ Antikythera, a contraption that can purportedly locate fissures in time. This all leads to a stunningly staged set-piece aboard a hurtling train brimming with looted antiquities and Nazis, and I’m still trying to decide what was more stunning: the choreographed action itself, the painstaking amount of work that must have gone into keeping Ford’s face looking youthful throughout the whole sequence, or the fact that Indy’s fedora doesn’t budge a millimetre the entire. Perhaps he stapled it on again after that trick worked so well in The Last Crusade. Long story short, including a prologue with a younger Indy works wonders for the rest of the film, because as Indy said in his very first outing, “It’s not the years, honey, it’s the mileage”, and this prelude serves as a stark reminder of just how much mileage we’ve clocked up with him over the past forty-odd years, leaving us all the more invested in this new adventure that James Mangold has prepared for us than if we’d just been thrown straight into the ensuing storyline, set twenty-five years later.

Flashing forward to August 1969, we find an Indy who has come to terms with the fact that his days as a Professor of Archaeology, expert in the occult and, how does one say it… obtainer of rare antiquities have come and gone. So, when Basil’s daughter (and Jones’ godson) Helena “Wombat” Shaw (a fantastic Phoebe Waller-Bridge) shows up on his doorstep in search of the Antikythera, Indy initially has absolutely no agenda, but when a few pennies start to drop, nothing can stop him from wanting to crack a mystery that’s been nagging at the back of his mind for the past 25 years, and which drove one of his closest friends over the edge. But what really forces Indy to don the fedore once more is when he finds Voller on their trail – now working for NASA under a new identity and assisted by a CIA team and his trusty sidekicks Klaber (Boyd Holbrook, who gives a fantastic performance that is far from as small as we’ve all been led to believe) and the hulk that is Hauke (Olivier Richters). And so, we’re hurled straight back into the action as Wombat makes off with the first section of the Antikythera that Indy had stashed away in the university storeroom, with Indy escaping by the skin of his teeth in a parade celebrating the Apollo 11 astronauts, before taking off on horseback through the New York City subway system in one of the film’s most lavishly orchestrated set-pieces.

From then on, the pacing between dialogue-heavy exchanges between the protagonists to bring us up to speed on what’s been happening since 1944 and the full-on action sequences is absolutely spot on, and no matter how bombastic the earlier scenes are, every ensuing moment of frenzy will leave your jaw on the ground. Any more details would spoil the fun but, suffice it to say that one particular tuk-tuk chase scene blew this reviewer’s mind and is bound to take its place in the history books alongside the still sensational Raiders boulder dash, Temple of Doom mine cart or Last Crusade tank chase.

We can’t not mention the welcome return of some familiar faces, all of whom elicited a smile – and the odd tear – from me, but beyond Sallah (John Rhys-Davies), who appeared in the trailers, the rest are best kept secret and I honestly hope people don’t spoil these on social media, as certain surprises a sure to catch you off guard. Equally enjoyable was the inclusion of Teddy Kumar’s (Ethann Isidore) Short-Round-esque character. It was a great way of including an additional fedora tip to The Temple of Doom but without relying on any of the franchise’s previous actors. And for goodness’ sake, instead of driving a car, this time a kid is flying a plane!

Indy’s sarcastic, deadpan humour is also back with a vengeance – always a good thing, with most of the irony paying homage to everything that’s come before in the franchise, all the while turning everything on its head to make sure the jokes land in unexpected directions. And Waller Bridge brings just as much comic relief this time around, displaying many of the flaws Indy had in earlier instalments, all for the sake of fortune and glory.

This late in the game, we all know Indy doesn’t buy into any superstitious mumbo-jumbo, but at the same time, we’ve witnessed all kinds of inexplicable ‘magic’ with him whether it be the Ark of the Covenant, the Sankara Stones or the Holy Grail. And yet, despite everything we’ve seen thus far, The Dial of Destiny features arguably the most out-there final twist of the entire franchise; something that a number of reviewers have found fault with. But I loved it because, no matter how left field it is, it felt like the right way to go as it stayed true to the tone of previous endings but managed to leave Indy more awestruck than we’ve ever seen him before, despite being much older and wiser now. That’s all I can say without spoiling it, but let’s just say that he gets to live every archaeologist’s dream and that’s what makes it such a perfect sendoff for one of the most-loved movie characters of all time.

Clocking in at just over two and a half hours, the film flew by and left me hanging for more. It’s literally everything you could want from an Indiana Jones film at this point in the franchise, as Indy gets to explore so much more at this particular juncture in his life, ultimately proving to everyone that, as Jules Renard once said, “It’s not how old you are. It’s how you are old.” And whilst it’s highly unlikely that we’ll see Harrison Ford don his trusty fedora and whip again, The Dial of Destiny ends on an absolute high, and left me quietly hopeful that someday Indy will come walking back through all our doors…

Where to watch Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny
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