Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023) – Film Review

indiana jones and the dial of destiny film review

Director: James Mangold
Cast: Harrison Ford, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Mads Mikkelsen
Certificate: 12A

By Roger Crow

Many of us who love Indy thought his final adventure involved a Crystal Skull, malevolent aliens, and a fridge. That was 15 years ago, and when news broke that Disney was giving Jones a final outing, it seemed impossible. Could an 80-year-old actor appeal to the 18-35 market? Would there be a strong enough story? And who could carry on the franchise?

Well, the most lucrative audience members might be curious, the story is a cracker, and the good news is, Phoebe Waller-Bridge is wonderful. As always.

The plot. In 1944, Indy and Oxford professor Basil Shaw (Toby Jones) repeatedly escape death at the hands of the Nazis. Jones is about to be hung by the bad guys in a castle, when all hell breaks loose. In an all-too-brief scene shot at our very own Grosmont station, there’s a steam train packed with stolen artefacts because ‘Hitler’s a nut on the subject’. The quest for a coveted spear turns out to be a dead end, but luckily they happen upon half of the eponymous MacGuffin, which, as the title suggests, is not only an enigmatic gizmo, but the ‘Destiny’ bit is almost an anagram of Disney. (Clever marketing people almost embedding their brand in the title).

The head Nazi providing the through line for the yarn is Dr Voller (the ever brilliant Mads Mikkelsen), who oozes menace.

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Anyway, following that rip-roaring opening, we cut to 1969 New York, where retiring Indy struggles to sustain the attention of bored students at Hunter College. None of them writes ‘love you’ on their eyelids like in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

However, perky stranger/Indy’s goddaughter Helena Shaw (Phoebe) seems to know a lot about Archimedes, and instantly brightens up every second of screen time from then on. Following the Moon landing, there’s a ticker tape astronaut parade through the city, which is a nice backdrop for one of the many chases. Indy and Helena versus seasoned Nazis, FBI agents and generic goons.

As anachronisms are key in tentpole movies, we have a thrilling subway chase involving a horse and Jones. Because it looks weird, and cool, like it sort of did in True Lies.

Anyway, we are eventually treated to one of a couple of legacy players teased in the trailer, and it’s a joy to see him.

Cut to Tangier, and following the introduction of Teddy (Ethann Isidore), Helena’s light-fingered young accomplice, there’s a throwback to the Raiders marketplace fight/chase, which feels right; Indy in more familiar territory. Like Octopussy, there’s a tuk-tuk chase, but everything borders on the comical and feels lightweight compared to a similar gob-smacking set piece in the 2011 Tintin movie.

indiana jones and the dial of destiny film review phoebe

“Sucker punch”

Cut to underwater shenanigans in Greece involving salty sea dog Renaldo (Antonio Banderas), some moving backstory about Indy’s past, a discovery, inevitable deaths, and then that third act.

And what a third act it is. Like a revamp of cult movie The Final Countdown, there’s another anachronism, two planes, a date with destiny, and… well you’ll have to discover that for yourself.

I’ve been a hardcore Indy fan since my first screening of Raiders in 1982, and seriously considered avoiding part five because of negative reviews and a need to remember my idol as a young man. But Indy was always destined to grow old disgracefully, as the excellent Young Indiana Jones TV series suggested. And that sucker punch finale left me drained. No spoilers, but I’m glad that what looked inevitable, like Han Solo’s fate in The Force Awakens, was rather different.

It’s not a perfect movie. Some underwater scenes outstay their welcome, and some of the effects are ropey, though the de-aged Ford isn’t bad, but the scene of him running across the top of a train is.

The main thing is it can be laugh-out-loud funny, heartbreakingly touching, and terrific value for money.

indiana jones and the dial of destiny film review ford

“Torch has been passed”

Phoebe’s incarnation as the thinking person’s Lara Croft is a nice touch, and I’ll be very happy if she carries on the saga in years to come.

You may hate it, or be bored by the 154-minute run time. Each to their own. I loved it, especially the John Williams score, which kept me hooked through the thousands of names in the closing credits.

I will happily sit through it all again before it’s fast tracked to Disney+ in the coming weeks.

One boulder may have stopped rolling but the torch has been passed, and, with any luck, it’s not going out.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is in cinemas now

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