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Movie review: Indiana Jones and The Dial of Destiny

Harrison Ford is back for one last adventure as Indiana Jones, complete with ‘digital de-ageing’ used throughout the film.

There is a moment in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny where the old adventurer, played by Harrison Ford, is handed a clock as a retirement gift. The once-dashing archaeologist is now 70 years old, finishing up as a history teacher just as the space age begins. Indiana Jones doesn’t really belong in 1969; old-fashioned, outshined by the technology of a new age, his adventures a thing of the past. Unimpressed, he gives the clock away in the street. Indiana Jones is a man out of time.

Directed by James Mangold, Dial of Destiny is the fifth and final instalment in the Indiana Jones film series. Dial of Destiny sees an older Indiana Jones reunited with his estranged goddaughter Helena, played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who is searching for an Antikythera device, a mechanism believed to be capable of time travel. With a Nazi foe from the past also hunting for the ‘dial of destiny’ to change the outcome of World War II, the ageing hero agrees to one more adventure.

Mangold’s direction seeks to capture the chases and set-pieces of Spielberg’s original films but with a muted tone more appropriate to an 81-year-old lead. Even John Williams’ score hints at the classic musical themes but doesn’t hit the big beats as much as you might expect. Indiana Jones is a character who searches for things of myth, finding meaning in sacred objects of the past. In earlier adventures, he seeks out biblical relics and even finds God, in a sense, in Raiders of the Lost Ark. He never quite attains these plot MacGuffins, but in the process, he often finds the greater personal and spiritual meaning they offer. The strength of this new film is Harrison Ford’s performance, his charisma now touched with loneliness and grief, as a hero who’s lost their meaning.

The Indiana Jones films have long been considered sacred objects themselves, part of pop-culture lore. The original Indiana Jones films were conceived as reimaginings of classic adventure serials. Over time, the franchise became synonymous with nostalgic cinema itself, a simpler time when films were fun romps.

Dial of Destiny attempts to acknowledge this with its opening sequence, a flashback to a younger Indiana Jones fighting Nazis in World War II (achieved with digital de-ageing technologies). The result is a scene from an Indiana Jones film we never saw, an attempt to revisit the past, and an exercise in time travel (only disrupted when the special effects don’t quite work). While Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny gives us a glimpse of time travel in more ways than one, it has something more important to offer than just nostalgia. Indiana Jones searches for the relics of the past but finds something much more meaningful, right where he left off.

The Indiana Jones movies might not belong in 2023. They might be old-fashioned, from a simpler time, outshined by newer technologies (box office receipts show that modern audiences seem unimpressed). For those looking for one more adventure, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is a fun romp with something more meaningful to offer than just nostalgia. Find Dial of Destiny in cinemas while you can. There’s still time.


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