fri 24/05/2024

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny review - a baggy, finally poignant finale | reviews, news & interviews

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny review - a baggy, finally poignant finale

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny review - a baggy, finally poignant finale

Harrison Ford's charismatic commitment beats dull action and turgid pace

One last time: Harrison Ford as Indiana JonesLucasfilm Ltd

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) revived Thirties adventure serials’ simple thrills, a George Lucas notion adrenalised by Spielberg. Its hero Indy Jones wasn’t built for depth or pathos, and the struggle to find reasons for his return notoriously sank Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), and left this final chapter in production purgatory till Harrison Ford was 79.

Ford wanted this sequel, disagreeing with Spielberg on its premise, and driving it to completion when the director gave up. Indy’s humanity wholly resides in his lopsided, ironic grins at peril, rugged but humorous masculinity and gruff charm. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’s in-the-red thrill-ride needed his battered nobility, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’s glib Bondian caper was saved by his fond timing with Sean Connery. More than his returns as Han Solo or Rick Deckard, Dial of Destiny lets Ford go to work as a leading man.

New Indy director James Mangold (Logan, Walk the Line) indulges himself with a long 1944 prelude with Indy and the de-aged Ford in their prime, punching out Nazis on a train much as River Phoenix’s much younger Indy did to his tormentors in Last Crusade’s prologue. The action is, though, disappointingly derivative, obscured by blurred digital movement and elaborately unexciting.Mads Mikkelsen and Thomas Kretschmann in Indiana Jones and the Dial of DestinyJez and John-Henry Butterworth’s dominant contribution to the script then brackets Indy’s main adventure with the pathos of a man out of time. It’s 1969, men have just returned from the moon, and grizzled Dr Jones is rudely woken by The Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour”, tumbling out of his modest New York apartment’s bed with his septuagenarian torso on display, and telling his hippie neighbours to turn that racket down. A dull subway commute takes the Prof to his last lethargic archaeology lecture to yawning students, prior to carriage-clock retirement. Away from work, Marion (Karen Allen) has divorced him since son Mutt was killed in Vietnam, and he likes a drink. This look at a man of action’s dotage uses Indy’s always unlikely equivalent to a secret identity to give him almost tragic weight, with the globetrotting adventures now a fading dream. As he says later: “Those days have come and gone.”

Shaunette Renee Wilson in Indiana Jones and the Dial of DestinyFedora and whip are dusted off after a college visit by goddaughter Helena Shaw (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), daughter of late wartime pal Basil (Toby Jones), who was driven mad by his obsession with the fragment of Archimedes’ Antikythera device purloined on that train, now Indy’s. It’s also wanted by a Nazi scientist from that ’44 escapade, Jürgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen, pictured above with Thomas Kretschmann), now America’s Von Braun-like space programme mastermind. The tension with Voller and his Nazi wannabe goons is felt most keenly by black CIA agent Mason (Shaunette Renée Wilson, pictured above right), an underused dash of diverse modernity.

With mystic McGuffin and Nazis in place, the fuse is lit, finding Indy’s death-defying pluck and mind-blowing luck undiminished. A chase through the Apollo 11 astronauts’ homecoming parade is a decent set-piece, but the original thrills have otherwise also come and gone. Long passages of action and chat are equally perfunctory in a perversely slow-seeming, baggy film.

Women were the immature Spielberg’s weak point in the original trilogy, but Waller-Bridge’s Helena (pictured below with Mikkelsen) is a disreputable con-woman and muscular, funny near-antagonist; Mangold had Katherine Hepburn’s cavalier female insolence in mind. Mikkelsen meanwhile gives his closet Nazi understated, arrogant intelligence.Mads Mikkelsen and Phoebe Waller-Bridge in Indiana Jones and the Dial of DestinyThen there’s Ford. Look back at even his failed star vehicles between Star Wars and Raiders, such as wartime romance Hanover Street (1979), and his cocky yet invitingly fallible attraction is devastating. He could have walked into Hollywood’s Thirties Golden Age, with an edge of self-doubting Seventies paranoia. When he recalls his son’s death, Dial of Destiny is suddenly struck with the cracked tone of real anguish, and real acting.

The Butterworths are veterans not just of Jerusalem, in Jez’s case, but the clever Tom Cruise time-loop flick Edge of Tomorrow, and Dial of Destiny’s last reel daringly embraces the Antikythera’s bonkers potential. A beautiful, devastatingly poignant postscript then fully justifies this final film, and gives Ford his most romantic moment since Witness. He pulls it off like Bogart or Cary Grant, or this great film star’s twilight combination of both.

Dr Jones tumbles out of bed, septuagenarian torso on display, and tells his hippie neighbours to turn that racket down


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article


Thank you Nick Hasted. Your review is heartfelt and does justice to the movie. In a world of bitter cynics, you have managed to bring a balanced review and a fitting tribute to Mr. Ford. Thanks for making me smile.

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters