Review: Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

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Title: Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny
Director: James Mangold
Starring: Harrison Ford, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Mads Mikkelsen
MPA Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 2 hr 34 mins

What It Is: Daredevil archaeologist Indiana Jones races against time to retrieve a legendary dial that can change the course of history. Accompanied by his goddaughter, he soon finds himself squaring off against Jürgen Voller, a former Nazi who works for NASA.

What We Think: Over a decade after Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the man with the hat darkens our doors once more with Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny – the final entry in the series. As is the standard with iconic characters/series, there will undoubtedly be many expectations about this film from fans and critics alike. Whatever one may want to expect from this story, or for a better term believe going into this grand finale, it also depends, as a stoic Indy states in one of the trailers, on how hard you believe it.

Behind the helm is James Mangold, a brilliant filmmaker who has directed films like Walk The Line, Logan, and the more recent Ford V Ferrari – while Spielberg’s absence will most certainly be felt by many, what Mangold accomplishes with Dial is something much more different than what I expected. It left me with a tempered bewilderment of sorts, not only because of how tender the character of Indiana Jones is in this film but also how the film (and its world) treats him. There is a slower pace – Indy himself isn’t the man he was 40 years ago, and the mileage is tangible on his face. We are seeing him for the first time in the modern world, a world that has its sights on the future, rather than the past, than history – something he has had a deep passion for his whole life. I thought that dynamic, as well as the balance it maintains with the film’s action, was very compelling.

With a new story there must also come new (and returning) characters. Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones is, of course, as captivating as ever. Referring to the ‘old age’ dynamic once more, its clear that he can’t take (or throw) as many punches as he used to, nor leap large distances or outrun boulders. The thing is, that’s what makes him all the more endearing in Dial, and his performance here is much more emotional and intimate than in any other entry of the series. A welcome partner on his last adventure is Phoebe Waller-Bridge as Helena Shaw, Indy’s quippy and mischievous goddaughter (also the daughter of Basil Shaw played by a wonderful Toby Jones) who wants to see if the film’s artifact, The Antikythera, can be rediscovered (along with their relationship). One character who shares a similar desire but with different motives is the cold-blooded Jürgen Voller played brilliantly by Mads Mikkelsen – it’s always a pleasure seeing him in a villainous role and he is quite good. Sallah also makes his return to the series and John Rhys-Davies brings the most of his signature bravura and teddy-bear aura. The supporting cast of characters are also great additions with the talents of Antonio Banderas (in the role of a old sea captain which is perfection), Ethann Isidore (a young, eager accomplice to Helena), Boyd Holbrook (a cunning agent in leagues with Voller), Shaunette Reneé Wilson (a US agent who operates in a grey area), and Thomas Kretschmann (bigger, worse bad guy).

Without giving too much away, this Indy adventure does indeed have a slower pace, but the action and spectacle (especially during the third act) remains entertaining nonetheless. For those who are seeking thrills, you will no doubt get them. It’s shot gorgeously, the sound is crisp, and John Williams embraces his unique place in this series one last time as the resounding orchestral maestro whose trumpets blare with triumph and peril, and whose strings stir and delight… with all these elements, the film shows any adventure seeking audience member a good time. For how certain elements of the plot develop, there are bold choices that sets Dial in a different light in comparison to previous entries, yet most of those choices I’d say benefit Indy’s arc and give him a riveting and touching finale.

As much as it was a thrill watching Dial of Destiny‘s action, there is one major gripe I have with this film – the amount of digital effects. There are some shots that fell a bit short both on execution and quality (a bit, most of the film was shot on location in beautiful Italy and Morocco), which took away the gravity of a few of the action scenes. On another note, the de-aging technology used in Dial is almost perfected and there were instances during the film where I had to do a double take, either because of how realistic it looked, or how realistic it seemed. It’s interesting to see an Indiana Jones film in the digital age we live in, yet I’m afraid the days of resourceful visual effects rather than excessive ones are behind us. Regardless, it doesn’t take you out of the experience as much as some may worry – just a few hiccups here and there. If there’s anyone who can still do his own stunts at the age of 80, it’s Harrison Ford.

Our Grade: B; A fitting curtain call for a beloved character. Chock-full of classic eye-widening action, mystery, and emotional moments, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny steps into its last adventure with a distinctive yet outstanding direction.

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