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regular-article-logo Thursday, 18 July 2024

Dial of Destiny is a decent curtain call for Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones, if not a grand send-off

Directed by James Mangold, the fifth film in the Indiana Jones franchise also stars Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Mads Mikkelsen and Toby Jones

Chandreyee Chatterjee Calcutta Published 30.06.23, 03:12 PM
Harrison Ford in his last turn as archaeologist Indiana Jones in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.

Harrison Ford in his last turn as archaeologist Indiana Jones in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. Instagram

My father introduced me to the thrilling world of globe-trotting adventure of one curmudgeonly, roguish archaeologist when I was a child. We watched the adventures of Indiana Jones on VCR, my on-screen favourite hero and my off-screen favourite hero, both at the peak of their prime. Four movies and 40-something years later, both my on-screen and off-screen heroes are men out of time, wondering if they are still relevant but never too old for new adventures.

And Harrison Ford’s fifth and final outing as Dr Henry Jones Jr in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is a fitting adventure for the ageing relic hunter. With James Mangold in the director’s seat, the first Indy film without Steven Spielberg at the helm, Dial of Destiny is a time capsule for all things Indy. There are relics to hunt, maps to decipher, mad scrapes and insane chases, tombs with secret passages, creepy crawlies, the mention of the Fuhrer and lots of Nazis to punch, all set to John Williams’s music.

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Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny opens in 1944 towards the end of World War II with a de-aged (it is only a little bit spooky) Harrison Ford in Nazi uniform (just like in Raiders of the Lost Ark) with a cloth bag over his head, being escorted into a mansion and promptly being sentenced to death, only to escape, first in a car, then a motorcycle and then a train which is carrying a lot of ancient relics that has been collected for the Fuhrer, including the Lance of Longinus, the blade that pierced Christ, which is what Indy was after.

Accompanying him in his misadventures is Toby Jones’s Basil Shaw, with Jones doing a wonderful job of filling in the role of the bumbling Brit academic. What they discover, however, is another item of significance — the Antikythera of Archimedes, which the Nazis believe have god-like powers (where have we heard that before!) — discovered by mad scientist Jurgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen).

Right after that extended — and a little too long — action sequence, we are transported to the late 1960s with Indiana Jones waking up in just boxer shorts feeling every wrinkle of his 80-year-old body. He is grumpy and irascible, dealing with personal tragedies, self-medicates with alcohol in his morning coffee. He is still a tenured professor but at the cusp of retirement and instead of bright-eyed, eager students, he has students who are bored and hardly interested in what he is saying.

Into this scenario comes his goddaughter, and Basil Shaw’s daughter, Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), who wants Indy’s help to find the Dial of Archimedes that her father was obsessed with. Indy hands it to her only to have her make off with it to sell it to the highest bidder in the black market. But she is not the only one after it. Voller is back — Mikkelsen excels as the racist, cold and maniacal Nazi — and wants to use the Dial, which can find fissures in time and space, to turn back the clock and correct the mistakes Hitler made. Indiana is forced back into his fedora, leather jacket, trusty whip at his side, and far from feeling uncomfortable, he looks absolutely at home in them.

Ford shines in his leather jacket and fedora. The cheeky, rakish smile comes out to play at times, while at others his eyes are cold and intense, a man you don’t cross. He is world weary but still has that spark and snark. What the film missed was the quips and banter between Indy and his fellow adventurers that is trademark Indiana Jones. The humour during intense action sequences were also mostly missing.

As per all Indiana Jones films, one artefact will lead to a map which will lead to another artefact and this sees Indy in the middle of a mad escapade and a tuk-tuk chase in Tangiers, followed by a deep sea dive off the coast of Sicily and going into the Ear of Dionysius in Italy. He has by his side Helena, who is all about “fortune and glory” while Indy is all “it belongs in a museum”. Waller-Bridge is a delight, a much better sidekick than Shia LaBeouf as Indy’s son Mutt Williams (ugh!), and a spin-off on Helena and her young sidekick Teddy wouldn’t be a bad idea.

The climax was a let-down, because though you expect crazy from Indiana Jones, this one was almost as barmy as Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Almost. The film ends on such a tame and mundane note that it feels like a disservice to the larger-than-life character we have grown up seeing. Especially compared to the sunset ride at the end of Last Crusade.

All in all, Dial of Destiny is a fun adventure and at least a decent curtain call for Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones, if not the grand send-off we were hoping for.

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