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Review: Indiana Jones IV

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Has the latest Indy movie lived up to expectations? Film Review does what it says on the tin…

Whipcrack away...

With a tilt of that hat and a crack of that whip – and a breathtaking opening sequence that leave no room for doubt about Harrison Ford’s action hero credentials – Indiana Jones announces his return to the big screen. It’s been 19 years since we last saw him, years which can certainly be counted in the lines around his eyes and the grey in that tousled hair, but Indy still has all of the energy, passion and gung-ho spirit that has always lurked behind that deliciously sardonic smile.

It’s 1957, and the United States is shrouded in red mist. Widespread fear of Russian Communism, and the treat it poses to Western democracy, has resulted in a climate of fear, paranoia and chemical weapons testing. Into this tumultuous landscape strides Indy, who’s still combining life-threatening treasure hunts with his more mundane job of university lecturing. When impetuous rocker Mutt (LaBeouf) roars into his life, however, with stories of kidnapped colleagues, treasure maps and crystal skulls, Indy is thrown into his most ambitious and dangerous adventure yet. It’s a journey that will take him into the depths of Peru, embroil him in the most ancient of legends, throw him up against deadly Russian agent Irina Spalko (Blanchett, clearly relishing every calculating moment) and reunite him with his true love Marion Ravenwood (Allen)

It’s a far-reaching story but, by remaining true to Indy’s old-school roots, director Spielberg has delivered the goods. Modern film-making technology has definitely speeded up the pace and slickened the visuals, giving Indy a cinematic gloss that it’s never had before – which does, admittedly, occasionally overshadow the heart and soul of the story. But Jones’s unwavering honour and steady moral core, not to mention his death-defying attitude, keep the whole thing grounded in a sense of old-fashioned derring-do.

Sure there are moments where it seems Indy is being dragged into a modern world that he doesn’t understand – such as the genuinely chilling moment where he finds himself slap bang into a nuclear weapons test – but he is undoubtedly still the hero around which the story gravitates, and is fully able to cope with whatever life throws at him. And that’s a good thing, as Spielberg has made the most of the 1950s setting, his B-movie references in particular being well-placed and hugely entertaining.

Indy IV doesn’t bring anything new to the table. It certainly isn’t high-brow cinema, it doesn’t contain any moral, political or social message and, yes, it does feature an ageing leading man. But none of that matters, as it does exactly what one would expect from this franchise. It’s got action sequences that will knock your socks off, a mesmerising leading man who you’ll root for until the bitter end, a supporting cast of colourful characters – it’s clear LaBeouf is being groomed to carry the franchise forward and, from this performance, he’s worthy of it – and a quest that, although bordering on silly in parts, keeps the two-hour running time moving at a clip. Simply put, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a solid Indiana Jones movie – and that’s high enough praise indeed.

by Nikki Baughan

There's full coverage of the film in
Film Review (Sum)

Indiana Jones ©
Review © Visual Imagination 2008. Not for reproduction

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Film Review (Sum), see below for ordering options
Film Review (Sum)
#697, Summer 2008
ships from May 23 2008
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