Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is the fifth and latest installment of the franchise and the last — according to the 80 year- old actor himself–to feature Harrison Ford in an acting role. So a little nostalgia is in order and that’s what we get right out of the gate. The opening sequence sends us hurtling back in time to 1944 as we come face to altered face with Indiana Jones–fit and in his prime! He’s once again eluding Nazis in pursuit of another object with metaphysical powers: the eponymous “Dial of Destiny “designed by ancient mathematician Archimedes purported to navigate fissures in time!
I found myself disoriented, intrigued, and not a little distracted by this cinematic fissure in time. There was Ford looking as he did decades ago, swashbuckling his way through an assortment of obstacles ultimately landing atop a moving train. HOW DID THEY DO THAT? Only occasionally did I see the odd way Ford’s head sat on his shoulders. But mostly, this de-aging effect worked and I started wondering if we could bring back Marilyn? Marlon? But I digress.
The sequence sent me back to the beginning, Raiders of the Lost Ark and its iconic opening 10 minutes, an alchemical combination of suspense, action, story-telling, humor, and the dramatic introduction of the whip-toting, fedora-sporting Indiana Jones. Conjured by director Steven Spielberg, the sequence and the weight of that boulder has been felt rolling through decades of cinematic history, shaping action sequences in its path ever since.
Dial’s opening scenes are preamble to a funny re-introduction of our hero. As we flash forward to 1969 we encounter Indy now gray, creased, and ensconced in an easy chair from which he emerges in his boxer shorts. It’s funny and endearing and underscores how lightly Ford and Indy hold themselves. While director James Mangold lacks Spielberg’s finesse and timing, I found myself glued to Indy’s every move, still preposterously spry as he’s propelled by various kinds of horse power–including a chase on horseback through the subway.
An unremarkable Phoebe Waller-Bridge appears as Indy’s venal goddaughter who is out for herself; the charismatic Mads Mikkelsen plays Indy’s Nazi nemesis; Toby Jones is a vagabond teen who’s there in the clutch, ready to fly or drive anything– whether or not he knows how. Antonio Banderas pops out of nowhere in a small role. Though some of the names have changed, we’ve seen it all before. And though this escapade takes us under the sea, up in the air, through the back alleys of exotic locales, and back in time– what held me through the drawn out chases, the not so surprising twists, and the clunky climax, was Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones still cracking his whip and wearing his fedora. Hats off to him.