Monday, 19 May 2008

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Within the first ten minutes of The Last Crusade, we learn many things that shaped the character and fashion of the archaeologist. A young Indiana (River Phoenix) steals a crucifix from a group of diggers in Utah, claiming it should be in a museum.
In the ensuing chase Jones Junior boards a train transporting a circus, falls into a large box full of snakes, fends off a lion with its taming whip and, just when he thinks the relic is safe, it is taken from him. He is, however, given a fedora hat in compensation.
Fast forward two decades and Harrison Ford’s Jones is once again dragged away from his day job as a university professor to examine a stone tablet that holds the location of the Holy Grail. Unfortunately, the part giving the location is broken off, and the missing words can also be found in the tomb of a knight, buried in Venice.
Meanwhile Indy’s father, Henry (Sean Connery) has been kidnapped while on his own Grail quest by the Nazis. Hitler is intent on having the chalice for himself, as he believes it will aid him in his mission.
Indy travels to Venice with Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliot), where he meets the attractive Dr Elsa Schneider, played with a Bond girl-like panache by Alison Doody. She takes them to a former church-turned-library, where Indiana learns that X really does mark the spot. He and Elsa find the knight’s tomb, and the location of the Grail: Alexandria.
However the Nazis have discovered that Indy is in Venice, and so the real fun begins. Following a chase along the canals, Indy learns that his father is being held captive in a castle on the Austrian-German border. Again accompanied by Elsa, Jones sets out to rescue Jones Senior.
In doing so, Indy learns that Elsa is a Nazi spy, and never to trust his father with a cigarette lighter. Having escaped the castle, a cavalcade of motorcycles sent after them is swiftly dispensed with, as are many other forms of enemy transport that follow.
After a few more chases in which the Nazis fail time and time again to keep up with the Joneses, they all reach the temple at Alexandria together. Who will find the Grail first?
The movie is full of entertaining, amusing, action-packed sequences and high jinx chases. Jones Snr quickly turns from something of a hindrance and the character who states the blindingly obvious to a useful, informative ally in the quest to find the Grail. The banter - both verbal and physical - between Ford and Connery is one of many high points in the film, as are the scenes that explore their tortured relationship.
Spielberg’s direction and John Williams’ famous score keep the movie rolling along as quickly as the big ball in Raiders of the Lost Ark, and with the kind of pure, unadulterated joy and humour that very little action movies now carry (Stephen Sommers The Mummy series being the exception).
Having finally seen the entire trilogy, I can now look forward to seeing what the next instalment brings.

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