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Harrison Ford, 80, Makes ‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’ the Best Indy Movie Yet

Don’t miss the octogenarian archaeologist’s final adventure

spinner image harrison ford kneeling on a boat in the film indiana jones and the dial of destiny
Harrison Ford stars in "Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny."

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 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.

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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.

spinner image harrison ford wearing a german uniform in a scene from the film indiana jones and the dial of destiny
Harrison Ford, 80, reprises his role as Indiana Jones.

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.

Meanwhile, the film flies by as Jones gets into one scrape after another, fleeing on a Nazi-filled train disguised in a German uniform with a distinct bullet hole in the chest and exit wound on the back. He fights through one car, and then the next, climbs on top and battles villains while decapitating train tunnels appear out of nowhere and bombs decimate upcoming bridges. The heart-in-throat action sequences follow breathlessly, one after the other on every wheeled vehicle imaginable.

spinner image phoebe waller bridge and harrison ford in a scene from the film indiana jones and the dial of destiny
Phoebe Waller-Bridge (left) stars as Helena Shaw.

Decades skip past and the pace intensifies with the entrance of Shaw’s scheming yet fashionable daughter Helena (a reference to the capricious heroine of A Midsummer Night’s Dream). Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge brings the fun and exuberance as Helena, channeling the adventurous, anarchic beauty that was Marion Ravenwood, Indy’s true love and ultimately his wife. Flaunting her relative youth, the vivacious Waller-Bridge sparkles on the screen, a modestly athletic, moderately amoral, self-possessed figure with a street urchin sidekick, Teddy (Ethann Isidore).

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While a spark flies between Jones and Waller-Bridge’s Shaw, it never verges on the awkwardly romantic. That’s because these escapades lead to the reunion of my favorite couple in all of Spielberg-land: Jones and Ravenwood. The charismatic Karen Allen, still a firecracker at 71, returns, aged up to match Ford. The twinkle hasn’t left Allen’s eyes, which radiate a knowledge that the dynamic couple were meant for each other, making for a deeply satisfying romantic conclusion to the original Indiana Jones chronicle.

We won’t get another Harrison Ford Indiana Jones movie. But how about giving this smart, spontaneous, self-reliant female lead a dedicated Indy spin-off?

Watch it: Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, in theaters

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