No snake, giant rolling ball, nazi, or vicious cave-dwelling cult could ever take down the iconic archeologist and professor Indiana Jones. Spanning four decades, Harrison Ford has donned the hat, leather jacket, and whip as he traveled the globe in search of ancient relics and preserving history. After working with Steve Spielberg and George Lucas on the first four films, Indy has a new cast and crew on the final outing for this franchise as it stands with Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. It's difficult to compete with those original three movies, but this fifth movie brings out the nostalgic beats while feeling fresh with some excellent action sequences and emotion creating a beautiful send-off for the character - at least for now. Highly Recommended!
The two biggest names in Hollywood are unarguably Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. Those two filmmakers and good friends have been working together since the '70s and collaborated on the original four Indy movies. But when Disney purchased Lucas Films, Lucas stepped aside and Spielberg decided to pass the torch to someone else to keep the creative juices flowing. Even though Spielberg and Lucas are executive producers, this is very much James Mangold's movie, as it is Harrison Ford's. Mangold impressed MCU fans with his dark and emotional film Logan which was the end of the X-Men franchise in that universe. It was brutal, action-packed, and had more emotional heft than most of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It seemed fitting that Mangold would come to this beloved film franchise to see everyone ride off into the sunset - or in this case, hang up the whip and hat.
Holy grails, lost arks, saving children, and alien artifacts are just a few items that Indiana Jones has crossed paths with. What would another piece of history that Dr. Jones hasn't saved that would be ideal for his last adventure? There could be many items, but as the title suggests, it will be the Dial of Destiny, a fabled device from Archimedes that is thought to bring magical powers to those who possess it. The opening act features a young Indiana Jones where a de-aged Harrison Ford is captured by the Nazis who are about to lose the war. One of the nazis is Voller (Mads Mikkelsen), who is a brilliant scientist who happens to side with the Nazis. This amazing action-packed opening act is set on a train at high speed that sets the movie in motion where the Dial is lost in an ensuing battle as Indy saves the day.
The movie cuts to the year of Woodstock - 1969 to show an older Indy playing the role of the grumpy old man who is not above showing up at his neighbor's house next door with a bat yelling at them to turn down The Beatles' music. Mangold shows that times have changed and Dr. Jones is not the popular professor he once was as most of his students are falling asleep in class and can't be bothered with answering his questions. There's something sentimental about seeing an aging Indiana and not receiving the acclaim he did in the previous films. On parade day for the moon landing, some familiar faces show up, including Voller who is still looking for the Dial of Destiny.
One of the better ingredients here is that Voller isn't the stereotypical villain and Nazi that has been the case in past films. There's some weight to him and even though he wants to use the Dial to perhaps travel back in time and have the Germans win the war, he is still a scientist at heart and knows there is some evil just not meant for this world, which is a breath of fresh air. Meanwhile, one of Indy's good friends had a daughter by the name of Helena Shaw (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) who shows back up in Indy's life to inquire about the Dial of Destiny for her own nefarious plans. Just like a Bond film, the screenplay goes back and forth on whether or not Helena plays the good side or the bad side. In this case, it's a bit of both with her own version of Short-Round - a kid named Teddy (Ethann Isidore) who can drive or fly anything, only without the true charisma that Key Huy Quan brought to his role all those years ago.
From here, all of these factions converge across the globe in search of the Dial of Destiny, complete with big car chases, gun fights, and more as Indy and company try and survive the Nazis and even the thing that Indy hates most tries to kill them. It's easy to see where this story is going, but Mangold flips it into the best climactic scene perfectly fitting for Indiana Jones that is the sweetest moment of the entire franchise. And Harrison Ford sells every bit of emotion flawlessly. He has an unbelievable movie presence and his facial expressions and delivery are so spot on with his part and current personal life catching up to him. Waller-Bridge is also wonderful to see perform, as her flip-flopping character is a ton of fun to see come full circle. And of course, Mikkelsen plays the German antagonist with elegance, while serving as a scientist and villain at the same time.
One of the bigger flaws in the film is the addition of new characters who receive little of any important screentime such as an FBI agent or even an old friend of played by Antonio Banderas. Their characters are written to make it seem like they will be a bigger part of the story, but after abrupt sequences, are never heard from again. Running at 154 minutes, it's curious if there was more development here. But again, the movie is not about them, it's about Indy and his final adventure and the movie delivers that perfectly with a sweetness that should satisfy fans. John Williams' iconic score sounds off with the same magic with some added new selections. With some callbacks and dialogue that reference the first four movies, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is a wonderful and nostalgic action movie and the perfect retirement for this particular character. Highly Recommended!