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  • Writer's pictureOli Law

Indiana Jones & The Dial of Destiny ★★★

James Mangold

Starring Harrison Ford, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Mads Mikkelsen, Boyd Holbrook, Toby Jones

The most anticipated movie of 2023 arrives, hat and whip in hand, as director James Mangold accepts the monumental task left by the legendary Steven Spielberg to deliver us one last Indiana Jones adventure; a search for the Dial of Destiny with mixed results.

Harrison Ford returns for one last outing as the eponymous archeologist but he’s a man out of time. Approached by his goddaughter Helena Shaw (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) and hunted by the CIA, he must cut his retirement short to locate the coveted dial of destiny before ex-Nazi scientist Jurgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen) can discover it’s secrets and attempt to rewrite history as he sees fit. Ford Check. MacGuffin Check. Nazis Check. All the makings of a great Indy Tale.

I laughed, shed a tear and experienced all the hallmark elements that made up every moment of the previous entries - but there was something at the time I just couldn’t put my finger on. Although it’s bookended by two inventive scenes that live up to the legend, the story dwindles in the middle plodding from set piece to set piece and left me wondering how could this happen to such a treasured icon of cinema?

Well, It could be the bland sepia tones of the cinematography blending the likes of 1960’s New York, Tangier and Sicily into one orangey grey goop; It could be the dull array of supporting characters that do nothing but move around as events unfold into one long tedious goose chase; Or it could be the sometimes questionable dialogue that does nothing to entertain or develop the chronicle further.

The true answer is that the dream team of Spielberg and Lucas (George) is and will always be the missing ingredient. The classic movie direction which elevates the other 4 entries leaves Dial of Destiny sticking out like a sore thumb. There are subtle nuances lacking in events that yearn for elements of comedy and clever wit only Spielcus (or Luberg) could evoke, ultimately muddying the waters and dissipating the clarity of the movie’s overall message.

You can’t deny the feeling of seeing Ford put the hat on and deliver another rousing performance that proves no one could ever fill those boots. In brief glimpses there are emotional beats that start to melt away the dissatisfaction and most drops of nostalgia land perfectly to leave that golden tear in your eye.

I can talk about the opening scene as trailers have already teased, a younger CGI-faced Indy searching for the Spear of Longinus which first puts him in contact with our antagonist and the dial. Although he does have that uncanny valley aura, you soon settle into the face of Ford in his forties. This does leave the door open for possible adventures where Ford may return in the future. This leap in technology from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’s Peter Cushing to an entire sequence of 1990s Ford is astounding and becomes a highlight of the film.

What I can’t talk about is the final moments of the movie, which almost by sheer luck manages to tie all the hanging loose threads together in traditional Indiana Jones fashion and injects just enough drama and intrigue to get DOD over the mark.

Both companion Waller-Bridge and antagonist Mads Mikkelsen are simply fine in their roles but sometimes lack the campy B-movie feel that the previous entries understood were necessary to the vibe, unlike the warm return of Jonathan Rhys-Davies who brings some much needed heart every now and again.

It’s an Indiana Jones movie, but not a great one and there’s nothing to say that this could be Fords last ride given the huge advance in de-ageing CGI that the Dial of Destiny boasts. Like Star Wars before it, the movie is fine on it’s own, but if this is to be the last adventure then it ultimately lacks that Spielberg and Lucas magic.

Indiana Jones & The Dial of Destiny available in UK cinemas now

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