Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
1989. Directed by Steven Spielberg.
“You lost today kid, but it doesn’t mean you have to like it.”
The Indiana Jones films and their architect, Steven Spielberg are household names, stitched into the fabric of modern pop culture with two-fisted pulp icons battling the forces of evil with brains and brawn, and always in a larger than life fashion. The first two films are considered to be some of the greatest action epics ever committed to film and Spielberg chose to return to his beloved world of whips and relics with a fantastical epic steeped in themes of fatherhood and the power of knowledge over hatred.
Indiana Jones sets off in pursuit of his father, who’s gone missing while questing for the Holy Grail. Beset upon by wicked Nazis and greedy scholars, Jones and his father must overcome their differences and believe in the power of family and friendship to persevere over the forces of darkness. Jeffrey Boam’s script begins with a childhood flashback to one of Indy’s first adventure, setting the tone for the familial morality tale at the center of Crusade’s larger than life story. The intimate moments between the Jones’ and the action set pieces are perfectly balanced, never overtaking one another. The dialogue is packed with endlessly quotable lines, allowing each of the cast to shine in their particular moments. Harrison Ford’s solid embodiment of Indy is beyond reproach, but it is Sir Sean Connery’s brilliant turn as Indy’s father that is the highlight. His wizened dedication to the Grail is only outdone by his emotional realizations of its cost on his life and still even these moments of depth pale in comparison to his legendary beachfront confrontation with a fighter plane and his pitch perfect, boyish charm in his scenes with Denholm Elliot’s hilarious sidekick. His monologue about the importance of the quest for the Grail is one of the film’s best moments.
Douglas Slocombe’s robust cinematography takes advantage of the lighting in sweaty close ups only to pull back into beautiful wide shots that encapsulate the wonders of nature and the incomprehensible malice of Nazi Germany. John Williams brings his formidable harmonics to bear with the expected triumphs previously established and then surpasses them with unforgettable tones that clearly divide good and evil. While there are betrayals and shifting motives, the heart of the franchise has always been about right and wrong, black and white, and Williams is perfectly in rhythm with this concept.
The final ingredient is the heart racing action that is the heart of the film. Beginning with a dazzling chase sequence featuring the late River Phoenix and then transitioning into no holds barred rescue involving a tank, The Last Crusade takes its time getting to the next explosion and when it arrives, there is nothing but excellence to feast upon. In a time of CGI saturation, action fans will always have classics such as this to return to, a powerful reminder of the power of practical effects and inspired creativity.
Available now for streaming on Amazon Prime and Hulu, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is essential viewing for anyone who’s ever entered a theater. Featuring a heartwarming story about fathers and son, hilarious exchanges amidst pulse pounding battles, and a golden age presentation, this is one of the all-time greats and a perfect example of how to do the blockbuster right.
Highly. Highly Recommend.