Sunday, August 14, 2016

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) #film

When Dr. Henry Jones Sr. suddenly goes missing while pursuing the Holy Grail, eminent archaeologist Indiana Jones must follow in his father's footsteps and stop the Nazis.

Indy's entanglements with the Nazis as arch-villains are pretty much stock standard fare for his exploits. At least by the third in the series, it's on the verge of becoming – dare I say it? – old hat. Nevertheless, Last Crusade is, in my mind, a stronger film than its predecessor in that it delves into the complicated relationship Indy has with his father (played by Sean Connery), as well as a final test of faith. We see Indy on the trail of rescuing his dad from the Nazis, with the aid of a femme fatale archaeologist Dr Elsa Schneider. She *is* rather distracting but she's far from the damsel in distress.

Of course the rescue mission does not go off smoothly. There are comical moments, when Indy and his dad are tied to a chair with the room burning around them – possibly one of my favourite Indy routines. The humour is silly, but so charming.

And of course the action, the stunts – they are typically edge-of-your-seat. Their journey eventually takes our heroes from Venice crypts and German castles to a mysterious city (in reality this is none other than The Treasury in Petra, Jordan, which is still on my bucket list of places to visit). As with each Indy film, there is a central theme and with this one it's a quest for the Holy Grail – which will allegedly gift the user with immortality. (Not a good thing for Hitler to have, no?) Indy and his dad take opposite stances, with Indy having chosen rationality his entire life while his dad has devoted his life to chasing a so-called magical object with all the fervour of a religious convert.

I need to digress here to this most excellent article by Leah Schnelbach about the religious themes running through this movie. Yes, it's a long article, but when you're done you'll possibly agree that the Indiana Jones films have far more substance than your bog-standard action films. Each time Indy has his brush with the supernatural, he clings stubbornly to science and reason, despite his experiences. Whether this is just his refusal to be swept away by that for which he has no logical explanation or him merely taking things in his stride, we're never quite sure, however he has perhaps his most important test in this film.

The Treasury in Petra, Jordan. Picture: Wiki Commons
The pacing with Last Crusade is tight – there's often little respite from one challenge to the next. Though the mechanisms of the dangers they face are not authentic, yet they have that fantasy elements that blend well and add a hyper-real, epic feel to the films – none of this will happen in real life but it's thrilling to watch. The slight slapstick edge is just right without feeling overdone as it had in Temple of Doom.

I admit that the first time I saw this film I didn't really love it as much as I did the previous ones. Second time round, I was assailed by the feels because of the father-son element. Harrison Ford is visibly older, and so is Indy – perhaps wiser but still the daredevil. I guess what makes Indy one of my perennial heroes is the fact that he thinks on his feet, often solving puzzles that I know for a fact would see me dead within instants. He has passion driving him – for knowledge, for discovering old secrets and revealing (and preserving) them for the good of mankind. Yes, he's a bit of a rogue, but his heart is in the right place. This film's a keeper.

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