⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, PG-13
Of all the Indiana Jones movies and spinoffs of the past 42 years, the fifth and final feature starring Harrison Ford, 80 and at the peak of his powers, is the best. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is faithful to the original story while retaining the zest of the action-adventure serials of the first half of the 20th century that inspired the modern masterpiece of inspired, breathless fun.
Indiana Jones has always been a different kind of action hero — dynamic, smack-talking, a cool cat with a whip who’s also a serious intellectual archaeologist. The character, originally devised by Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, inspired Spielberg’s greatest film, 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark (Ford’s first outing as Indy), and his cultural impact was vast. Countless kids fantasized about growing up to be him, such as Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who idolized and identified with Indy above all pop culture heroes — his childhood ambition was to be an adventuring archaeologist.
In Indy’s grand finale, he’s grown up to be a retired professor who leaps back into action, and it’s the perfect time in Ford’s career to play him one last time. Ford has had a banner year on screens big and small. He’s the fabulously frank psychiatrist with Parkinson’s supporting Jason Segel’s neurotic therapist in Shrinking, and the rugged patriarch opposite age-appropriate sex symbol Dame Helen Mirren, 77, in the hit Yellowstone prequel, 1923. Why retire? He’s getting the best roles of his life, both dramatic and comedic.
In the current archaeological adventure, seamlessly directed by Walk the Line’s James Mangold, 59, Jones is still chasing the dream of discovery in dangerous territory. It’s 1944, and the Nazi regime is retrenching. Jones and his harried scientific sidekick, Basil Shaw (top British character actor Toby Jones, 56) cross enemy lines seeking the movie’s MacGuffin — a circular artifact created by ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes to facilitate time travel.
Their rival? Sadistic German Dr. Voller (another favorite, whether hero or Bond villain, seductive Hannibal star Mads Mikkelsen, 57). The bad doctor wants to grab the ancient dial, hit rewind and secure the Nazis a spot on the winning side of history.
In these earlier scenes set in the past, the CGI techniques used to make Ford appear considerably younger are more effective than, say, the youthification of Samuel L. Jackson in Captain Marvel or Robert De Niro in The Irishman. CGI is used to de-age actors in an estimated 80 percent of movies now, and Ford’s often stolid blankness provides the ideal canvas for the computer to tweak. Mikkelsen also comes through the process credibly without throwing the audience out of the movie.