Review by Jerry Saravia|
No Rating Supplied
The third time's the charm in the last entry of the wonderful "Indiana Jones"
series. Although it is essentially a recap of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" using
Nazis again as villains, it is also the official sequel to "Raiders," taking
place two years later after the original. It also has a comforting, relaxing
atmosphere that restrains itself from being as over-the-top as "Temple of Doom"
was. But do not fret, "Last Crusade" is chock full of action scenes and plenty
of humor and provides more depth on Indiana than the last two did.
This time, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford, aging gracefully) is in pursuit of the
Holy Grail, the cup that Jesus Christ drank from at the Last Supper. A
millionaire named Walter Donovan (Julian Glover) wants to acquire the Grail
before anyone else does and suggests that Indiana find it. Indiana, being the
resourceful adventurer and archaeologist, senses that his father (Sean Connery),
an expert on Grail mythology, is the more appropriate choice. Unfortunately,
Indy's father is already on the search and is missing, which means that Indy not
only has to find his father but also the Grail. Accompanying Indy on his first
stop in this journey to Venice is Indy's mentor, Marcus (the late Denholm
Elliott), and a typically beautiful art historian, Dr. Elsa Schneider (Allison
Doody). Lots of chaos ensues as well as wall-to-wall action scenes in
motorboats, planes, motorcycles, zeppelins, tanks, horses, and so on. The film,
as directed by Steven Spielberg, justaxposes all these scenes with moments of
pure comic relief a
nd enough moments of pause and reflection before embarking on yet another
dazzling action sequence. One inspired moment has Indy confronting Adolf Hitler,
a scene that is hilarious and eerie in a strange way (apparently, there was a
deleted scene where a Leni Riefenstahl filmmaker is shooting footage of the
burning of books in a Nazi rally).
It is remarkable that after two movies, "Last Crusade" still finds something
innovative and fresh in situations that are as cliched as romantic kisses before
a fade out. For example, a typically sorry bit involving a revolving wall is
punctuated by tightly edited action and some burst of humor, like using an Adolf
Hitler head statue to block the revolving wall from letting Nazis enter. A
motorcycle chase is handled with finesse when it turns into a jousting
tournament. A plane ready to fire at its heroes on a beach is demolished by
flying geese. Another plane nearly explodes when its wings fall apart entering a
tunnel where the heroes are being chased in a car. The climactic tank chase is
especially good, though it does seem to run out of steam after a while until it
ends with...well, just see the movie. Oh, yes, and the zeppelin sequence has a
one-liner by Ford that remains something of a classic.
It was a blessing to cast Sean Connery as Indiana's father, Dr. Henry Jones, a
highly private professor who is amazed at his son's ingenuity from getting out
of one scrap after another. This also serves a more historical note in cinema in
that Connery used to play James Bond, who is the true sire of Indiana Jones
(lest we forget that Spielberg initially wanted to make a Bond movie before
George Lucas introduced an idea about an archaeologist). Connery and Ford have
the right chemistry and their bickering and shouting results in a newfound
respect for one another (Indy's father has mostly been estranged).
The villains are nastily evil, as always, yet none come close to the great
villain Belloq from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." He had a charm and humanity that
is unrivaled, particularly when wooing Karen Allen's Marion, Indy's original
leading lady. Here, we have Michael Byrne as Vogel, a Nazi commandant, who
certainly has a hardened evil streak within but is mostly a cartoonish variation
on his similar role in "Force 10 From Navarone," which also starred Ford. There
is one other villain but it would be a spoiler to reveal who he is.
Alison Doody has charisma to spare as the good doctor with a few cards up her
sleeve, but she is a disappointment when compared to Karen Allen's feistiness.
She is a major improvement on Kate Capshaw's whiny love interest in "Temple of
Doom" if only because she does not scream every two minutes.
"Raiders" returnees Denholm Elliott and John Rhys-Davies bring back their roles
with equal relish and delight. There is also a nod to "Raiders" when Indiana and
Dr. Schneider are in the catacombs of Venice and find a familiar illustration on
Indy: "It's the Ark of the Covenant."
Elsa: "Are you sure?"
Indy: "Pretty sure."
"Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" is a more mature, less wildly over-the-top
entry in the series. It is lots of fun and often magical in its continuing
affectionate tribute to the serials of yesteryear. The action is still
frightfully intense and surprising thanks to Steven Spielberg's assured and
strenuous direction. Indy may still return in the future but with this
magnificent trilogy in place, there is no real need. Besides, we now know where
Indiana got his name from.
Copyright © 2001 Jerry Saravia