Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
Release Date: May 24th, 1989 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Steven Spielberg Actors: Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, Denholm Elliott, Alison Doody, John Rhys-Davies, Julian Glover, River Phoenix
ndiana Jones and the Last Crusade” is a flawless return to form for Steven Spielberg and the entire cast and crew of the series. Taking to heart and complementing all of the elements that made “Raiders of the Lost Ark” such a timeless classic, this third chapter utilizes drama, action, comedy, romance, thrills, and chills to become an incomparably rip-roaring sequel. It’s also one of the very best examples of the action/adventure genre.
It is 1938, and Professor Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is still the risk-taking archaeologist he was two years earlier, having chased after the mythological Ark of the Covenant. Walter Donovan (Julian Glover) approaches Jones to aid in the search for the Holy Grail, the cup Christ used during the last supper. The project leader has vanished suddenly and Donovan knows Indiana would be a fine replacement, experienced in Grail lore. Initially Jones refuses, admitting that his father is the true expert – until he’s informed that the project leader was indeed his dad, Professor Henry Jones (Sean Connery)!
Traveling to Venice, Italy, Indy and colleague Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliott) join Dr. Elsa Schneider (Alison Doody) to search for clues to the city where the Grail resides. Indy learns of his father’s whereabouts during a run-in with a secretive group of soldiers who have been protecting the location of the artifact, and travels to Salzburg on the Austrian/German border to find him. After a daring rescue attempt, Indy and his father must brave unrelenting attacks by the Nazis, who also seek the Grail, betrayal, motorcycle chases, armored tanks, and all manner of gunfire to arrive at Alexandretta and the Canyon of the Crescent Moon, where a final showdown and deadly trials of faith threaten the lives of all involved.
Indy’s boring day job as a school professor smartly contrasts his natural draw to excitement and Stakhanovite dedication to mayhem. Here, audiences are treated to an opening scene that further educates on the origins of Indy’s mischief, his drive for museum treasures, and his mastery of a bullwhip. Sean Connery couldn’t be better as the new addition to the Jones family and Doody makes an impressive turn as something more seductive and sinister than the Bond girl she played a few years earlier. Also coming back to the screen with the same grand enthusiasm as seen in 1981 are the top-notch acting (surprising for a film modeled after B-movies and serials), nonstop action, superb villains, the shifty femme fatale, the evil Nazis, the comedic sidekicks, and the loose ties to historical and religious teachings.
Once again tackling the traversing of sea, air, and land, like a James Bond thriller without all the gadgets (indeed, Indiana Jones was intended to be Spielberg’s version of 007), this trilogy closer doesn’t disappoint, showcasing death-defying stunts and visual intensity. And those sequences appear right alongside commendable character development and dialogue. From explosive boat chases to motorcycle escapes to tank warfare, the riveting stunt work proficiently supplements but never overshadows the man in the fedora. Not one to rely solely on physical exploits anyway, Spielberg includes plenty of intriguing supporting roles, comedy relief, the occult teamed with grotesque stop-motion animation, and iconic set pieces. These staples of the Indy saga – along with the blending of historical events, World War II, religious artifacts, spine-chilling booby-traps, and continual globetrotting – make this stimulating finale one of the greatest finishes to any series in the history of cinema.
– Mike Massie