Should I Watch..? Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
What's the big deal?
Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade is an action adventure film released in 1989 and is the third instalment of the Indiana Jones series. Originally conceived as a conclusion to the series, the film reunited star Harrison Ford with director Steven Spielberg and writer & producer George Lucas. The film is set in 1938 and sees Dr Jones in pursuit of his father, an expert on the Holy Grail, to help him retrieve the artefact before the Nazis find it for themselves. The cast also includes Alison Doody, Denholm Elliot, John Rhys-Davies, Julian Glover and Sean Connery as Indy's father. After criticism of the second film Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom (1), Spielberg deliberately chose to tone down the amount of violence in the film and as a result, has a much lighter tone than before while still matching the breath-taking thrills and spills the series had become known for.
What's it about?
After an opening prologue showing us a young Indiana as a Boy Scout, the film begins with Indy returning from another expedition back to his everyday job as a history professor. But wealthy financier Walter Donovan has bad news for Indy - his father, Dr Henry Jones, has vanished whilst searching for the Holy Grail. After receiving his father's diary in the post, Indy realises that his father is in serious trouble and sets off to Venice to begin searching for him.
But things aren't as straight-forward as they seem. With the Nazis also on the trail for the Grail, Indy must rely on old friends Sallah and colleague Marcus Brody as well as his father's Austrian assistant Dr Else Schneider to overcome the might of the German army as well as a secret society dedicated to preserving the Grail's hidden location. With time against them, can Indy rescue his father and retrieve the Grail before all hope is lost?
Dr Henry "Indiana" Jones, Jr
Professor Henry Jones, Sr
Dr Elsa Schneider
Dr Marcus Brody
Young Indiana Jones
Jeffrey Boam *
Release Date (UK)
30th June, 1989
Best Sound Effects Editing
Academy Award Nominations
Best Sound, Best Original Score
What's to like?
Quite simply, the magic is back. Dispensing with the grim darkness of the second film, we are treated to a film that is lighter, brighter and much more enjoyable as a result. Ford brings his comic timing back for this and the interplay between himself and Connery is pure gold. Connery plays against type somewhat as a bumbling, comic sidekick and actually gets most of the laughs - you'd think he'd feel like James Bond but its testament to Connery's performance that 007 is furthest from your mind.
Bringing back some cast from Raiders Of The Lost Ark (2) also means that more of that film's magic rubs off here. Elliot is given much more to do as Brody while Rhys-Davies is also welcomed back as Sallah. But the story in The Last Crusade raises the stakes even further - it's set just a year before World War 2 and the Nazis have more at their disposal than before while the Holy Grail itself is said to grant immortality to those who drink from it. As you'd expect, the action is first-class and is once again a fine demonstration of the lost art of stunt work. The tank chase is probably my favourite sequence in the entire movie, which is impressive given that we're also treated to a boat chase, a motorcycle chase, an aerial dogfight and the various traps guarding the Grail itself. The film is a proper, pulsating adventure the likes of which we see all too rarely these days outside of derivative video games shameless copying films like this.
- Most of the Nazi uniforms in the scenes set in Berlin were the genuine article as a cache of World War 2 uniforms had been discovered in Germany. Costume designer Anthony Powell then acquired them for this film.
- Neither Ford or Connery wore trousers during their conversation on the Zeppelin. The set was too hot and Connery didn't want to sweat too much.
- River Phoenix's performance as the young Indiana Jones inspired George Lucas to create The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles TV series. Phoenix declined to reprise the role though as he didn't wish to return to TV roles.
What's not to like?
Obviously, there isn't really a baddie with the sheer presence that Ronald Lacey brought to "Raiders Of The Lost Ark" as Gestapo agent Todt. But Glover does OK as Donovan as does Michael Byrne as Nazi officer Vogel. But neither last in the memory quite like Lacey does. There are also some understandable rough edges around some of the effects but nothing that a Blu-Ray touch-up couldn't resolve.
I also felt that a character switch happens too soon in the picture. It might have had more resonance later on in the film but other than that, I really can't think of anything else. In fact, it feels churlish to point out such flaws in a film I enjoyed as much as this. True story - it came on TV a few weeks ago and I still sat down to watch it again, despite having seen it many times already. It's one film that you could rarely tire of.
Should I watch it?
Of course you should! What more could you possibly want from a film that has a great story, grabs your attention from the very beginning and doesn't let go until the end, has some truly memorable scenes, is lead by a fantastic dynamic duo providing plenty of laughs and has just enough scares to give younger children the chills? It's the perfect family film, full of fun and excitement and one that they'll never get tired of seeing.
Great For: adults, children, families, archaeologists.
Not So Great For: Nazis, Christian fundamentalists.
What else should I watch?
One assumes that you're already watched Raiders Of The Lost Ark but if not, you're in for a treat. Like this film, it is a thrilling throwback to the adventure tales of yore as Indy goes in search for the Ark Of The Covenant. Despite criticism towards it, Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom still has enough good points to justify a viewing but it is a much grimmer affair that strips the humour and good nature from the series and replaces it with bloodthirsty cultists, human sacrifice and child slave labour. However, it still is not as depressing as the belated fourth film Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull (3), although for different reasons...
Anyone looking for anything similar these days would probably have more luck looking at video games which owe an enormous debt to these films. Stuff like Tomb Raider (which failed to translate to the big screen) and Uncharted (which has a movie adaptation in development) do have a similar feel to the Indiana Jones series with the added bonus that it's you leaping across bottomless pits and fighting baddies.
© 2015 Benjamin Cox