Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Nineteen years is a long time to keep a jones on for an Indy sequel, but Steven Spielberg's long-awaited fourth film in the series doesn't disappoint. It's a rousing, exciting, even nostalgic adventure that makes for a great time at the movies.
When we last saw Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) in 1989's The Last Crusade he was battling Nazis in 1938 and riding off into the sunset with Dad (Sean Connery) in tow. Now just like the movie, the story has advanced 19 years to the height of the Cold War in 1957--and a world living under the threat of nuclear annihilation. In a restricted desert area Indy barely survives a run-in with Soviet agents, led by Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett)--a cold-hearted, whip-cracking woman who will stop at nothing to get what she needs. Because of government suspicions that he is colluding with the KGB (rather than spying on them), he returns home to Marshall College to find himself out of a job. As his train is about to depart, he is confronted by Mutt (Shia LaBeouf), a leather-jacketed biker who has a personal motive in presenting Indy with a map that could lead to one of the most amazing archaeological discoveries ever, The Crystal Skull of Akator. Off they go together on their mission to Peru's remotest jungles where they must escape more run-ins with Spalko and her agents as well as have an unexpected reunion with Mutt's mother, Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), Indy's old love interest. Does he eventually save the day? Have you EVER seen one of these films before?
There is no question that Harrison Ford and Indiana Jones were made for each other and even after nearly two decades apart, the marriage between actor and his most iconic role is still a perfect fit. Smartly, Ford lets Indy age, so even though he's probably Hollywood's only gray-haired action hero this summer--and there are more lines in his face--he's still got it. You believe he can still pull off all this derring-do which is pretty remarkable for an actor now eligible for Social Security checks. Best of all is the deadpan delivery of the arsenal of Indy quips screenwriter David Koepp has provided the actor. Just like River Phoenix in the last Indy film, Shia LaBeouf's Mutt may have been created to bring in a younger audience, but LaBeouf and Ford have genuine chemistry. They play off each other in style, especially when Indy discovers Mutt is his son. A "tip of the hat" between the pair at the end will spark speculation about just where this series could go next. The cast is rounded out by solid British actors, including: Ray Winstone, as a friend who may be double-dipping; Jim Broadbent as the president of the University; and John Hurt as Professor Oxley, a man holding a big secret. Blanchett seems to be channeling Natasha from Rocky and Bullwinkle, deliciously playing the thick-accented Soviet agent thing to the hilt. Karen Allen, back as Ravenswood, is an inspired idea and starts sparring with Indy without missing a beat. If this does turn out to be the last film in the series, they have found the perfect way to end it.
Let's face it, Steven Spielberg could probably direct this film in his sleep, but the lighter tone and the feeling makes this collaboration between Spielberg and his old friend, exec producer George Lucas, go down easy. Right from the opening set piece in which Indy is confronted by the Soviets, to a wild motorcycle chase ending in the college library, you know you are in the hands of a master of action. Fortunately, the best is saved for the second half with a stunningly filmed pursuit through Peru's coastal jungles that includes a great bit with flying monkeys, and another trip off some daunting water falls for Ford (Didn't he get enough of that in The Fugitive?) The big finale is full of the trademarked CGI effects work we've come to expect from exec producer Lucas' ILM and it's state-of-the-art technologies. Clearly for fans, this long gestating sequel is well worth the wait--an old fashioned movie experience that sparkles like "crystal."
Hollywood.com rated this film 3 1/2 stars.