Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny  (12A) |Close-Up Film Review

Dir. James Mangold, US, 2023, 154 mins

Cast:  Harrison Ford, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Mads Mikkelsen

Review by Carol Allen

This fifth and final chapter in the Indiana Jones saga, still starring action hero Harrison Ford (now 80 years old), is a real crowd please for Indy fans.   Plenty of action and a very proactive (and morally ambiguous) female lead in Phoebe Waller-Bridge for the modern audience.  

Although the only one of the series not to be directed by Stephen Spielberg, it’s totally and firmly in the IJ style, which is almost a genre in itself – and must include Nazis!  And here they are in an action packed opening sequence set in the war years, when the young Indiana and his colleague Professor Basil Shaw (Toby Jones) snaffle this story’s McGuffin from under the nose of nasty Nazi Jürgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen).  The prize in question is half of the Dial of Destiny, a device which enables its owner to travel through time.  It was invented thousands of years ago by the Greek mathematician Archimedes – according to the story – and split into two as a precautionary measure by its inventor, who presumably foresaw the rise of the nasty Nazis?   So Indiana has one half, and the story is about finding the other half.   The real magic in this first section is the way the film’s CGI experts have restored their youthful looks to both Ford and Mikkelsen.  A useful bit of time travel in itself that.

To return to the plot, we jump forward to 1969, where the now ageing but still pretty spry Indy is grumpily settling for retirement.  He still has the half dial, which he unwisely shows to his god daughter Helena Shaw (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), who promptly steals it.  She has a nice little business selling ancient artefacts on the international black market.   With a sigh of resignation (and probably anticipation) Indy digs out the trademark hat and whip and sets off in pursuit. 

 And many an adventure the two of them are about to have along with Helena’s young sidekick Teddy (Ethann Isidore).  Because Voller, now somewhat older, has got wind that the half dial is now on the loose, and he and his followers want to unite it with its other half and go back in time to get Hitler to win the war.  The search takes them all over some the most glam and cinematic parts of the world – Morrocco, the Middle East and ultimately ancient Greece.  And there are many exciting chases to be had, including a particularly inventive tuk tuk pursuit through a lively market.

Ford as the world’s oldest action hero does very well.   Fit as a fiddle and leaping around like a ten year old. The film could though have made more out of Indy not fitting in with his modern world of the late sixties than it does.  It is much more comfortable with itself once it gets him back into the tieless action. It’s also very careful to avoid any suggestion of anything unseemly between himself and his much younger and equally athletic co-star.  In fact one of its sweeter touches is a late life reunion between Indy and Karen Allen returning as his former love Marian.  It’s a pity though that her character, a spirited lady in in her past, couldn’t have had a larger share of the action.   After all, if you can have an 80 year old movie action hero, why not a 71 year old movie action heroine?   Maybe though Ms Allen has just outgrown that sort of thing.