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Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023) - Movie Review

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny review

I’m sure you’ll agree that all I seem to do lately is complain about how disappointing new films are. It’s a rare occurrence these days where I watch a highly anticipated movie and report back here to say how good I thought it was. This year (for me at least) no other movie has been more highly anticipated than this one…

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023)

If you’ve followed my movie watching exploits for a while you’ll no doubt be aware that the Indiana Jones movies are among some of my favourites of all time and, much like a lot of you I like to pretend that The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was never made and that it was merely a horrible nightmare that still haunts me from time to time.

Although I had my doubts and concerns about the new film based on bad reviews, supposed plot leaks that made the film sound horrendous, and the general expectation of disappointment, I just had to find out for myself if it was another Indy adventure best forgotten. So on Wednesday night I went to my local cinema’s advanced screening of everyone’s favourite archeologist’s latest outing.

If you haven’t seen it yet, this is the fifth and latest instalment in the Indiana Jones saga and the first one to not be directed by Steven Spielberg or co-written by George Lucas.

Directed by James Mangold (Logan, Walk the Line) it stars Harrison Ford (Blade Runner), Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag), Mads Mikkelsen (Rogue One), Ethann Isidore (Au revoir Tom Selleck), Boyd Holbrook (Logan) and John Rhys-Davies (The Lord of the Rings trilogy) who reprises his role as Indy’s trusted friend Sallah.

This is what it’s about according to the internet:

“Daredevil archaeologist Indiana Jones (Ford) races against time to retrieve a legendary dial that can change the course of history. Accompanied by his goddaughter, Helena (Waller-Bridge) he soon finds himself squaring off against Jürgen Voller (Mikkelsen), a former Nazi who works for NASA.”

I’ll be honest, based on the number of times I’ve been let down with these kinds of films, as well as the reasons I mentioned earlier, I went in with low expectations. Still, it couldn’t be any worse than Kingdom of the Crystal Skull could it…? Thankfully it’s not. In fact I really enjoyed it.

However, there’s a BIG but….!

Ok so right from the start of the movie I was invested. It doesn’t waste any time getting stuck into the action where we see a flashback of a younger Indiana Jones once again at odds with the Nazis (those damn Nazis!)

Since it was in the trailer I’m sure I’m not breaking any news when I mention that this movie features a de-aged Indy. Well, as good as the effect is it’s still not quite perfect, and to be honest I found it a bit distracting. Nevertheless the story and the action won me over so quickly that I was happy to turn a blind eye to it.

The opening of the film also introduces us to a few new characters including the movie’s antagonist, Dr. Volley (Mikkelsen) - a nazi scientist with his own sinister agenda and an interest in ancient artefacts. Unsurprisingly Mads Mikkelsen is brilliant as the new bad guy who wants the same thing Indy does. Something I never doubted about this film was Mikkelsen’s performance. He’s been superb in everything I’ve seen him in and he doesn’t disappoint in this either.

Another newcomer to the franchise is Britain’s own Phoebe Waller-Bridge who plays Helena, Indy’s Goddaughter and companion on his latest adventure. Although I was a little sceptical at first (based on Disney’s super-woke approach to their films in recent years) I thought she was excellent, and more than held her own against some big hitters in such a huge production. Her character even reminded me a little of Marion Ravenwood from the first film, Raiders of the Lost Ark. Whether it was intentional I don’t know, but she definitely has that fiery, spunky personality.

In this movie (set in 1969 during the space race) we see a much older, and dare I say 'sadder' Henry Jones Jr. His life isn’t quite where you’d think it would or should be after everything he’s been through, and there’s actually something really sad about seeing him so old in a world that’s so different to the one we’re used to seeing him in.

He’s always been a flawed hero and it’s one of the things that makes him so enduring, not to mention relatable. In this film he’s more flawed than ever - not only due to age, but also from having endured personal hardship.

Thankfully though age doesn’t hold our hero back too much, and he’s still dishing out the ass-whoopings - albeit with just a little less vigour.

One of the first reviews I read about this movie said that it seems more concerned with playing on the nostalgia of the previous films than it does establishing itself as its own chapter in the series. I couldn’t disagree more! There are some nice references and subtle nods to the previous films, but compared to other legacy/belated sequels like Ghostbusters: Afterlife (which relies heavily on the nostalgia element), and Coming 2 America, this film is very much it’s own thing. In fact, as I was watching it I realised that I was enjoying it as a brand new Indiana Jones adventure rather than comparing it to previous instalments.

Here comes the big BUT…

As the film moved along at a good pace with a nice flow, plenty of action, thrills, and multiple real locations (which seems to be a rarity in movies these days) I was becoming more and more aware that I’d be leaving the cinema feeling buzzed and motivated to write a flattering review about it. We were almost there and then they went and ruined it!!!

In the third act with barely 30 minutes to go until the end credits the plot takes a nosedive into almost B-movie territory. I felt it coming, and inside prayed for it not to happen...but alas, it did.

Obviously I’m not going to divulge what it was that upset me so much but I’m pretty sure when you watch it you’ll understand exactly what I’m talking about. I’m so gutted because up until that point and even after, I really did like the film.

Aside from an unforgivable 10 or so minutes this in my opinion is a worthy addition to the Indiana Jones saga. It has a good story, fun characters (both old and new), great performances, lots of action, comedy, and the perfect amount of nostalgia. It’s basically a good old fashioned treasure hunting action adventure which is exactly what the original three are.

Is it up there with those movies? My love for them and the era they were made makes me say no, but let’s face it, was it ever going to be? Will any film ever be? Like I said though, it’s a worthy sequel (if you can somehow forget those terrible 10 or so minutes), and a fitting end to the saga.

With a run time of 2 hours 34 minutes it’s the longest Indiana Jones movie to date but I really didn’t think too much about it. John Williams’ iconic score hits all the right notes once again and helps make the whole thing feel like it belongs. It’ll almost certainly leave you humming the theme tune long after you’ve left the cinema (I know I was).

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is showing in cinemas now. Get and watch it!

Seen it? What did you think? Let me know below.


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