Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023)
Through sheer bravado, Harrison Ford and Phoebe Waller-Bridge make "Dial" enjoyable enough
Like all Indiana Jones adventures, we begin with a chase. It's 1944, and a young Indiana (Harrison Ford, with the help of de-aging CGI) is being interrogated by Nazis. Among them is Dr. Voller (Mads Mikkelsen), your typical mad scientist who has found an actual genuine artifact among a train laden with fakes: the Archimedes' Dial, or half of it to be exact, a device that could literally change the course of history ... in the wrong hands. Indy and colleague Basil Shaw (Toby Jones) snatch it from Voller's hands and, in a breathtaking (and overlong) chase that winds through and over and finally off the train, they manage to escape with the Dial.
Next: It's 1969. Life sucks for an elderly Indy. His son has died in Vietnam. His wife Marion wants a divorce. He's tired, worn out, uninspired. It's his last day teaching archeology in New York City. Lurking in his classroom of otherwise listless students is his god-daughter Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), the daughter of his now-deceased pal Basil. She's on a quest to locate the Dial and re-unite it with its missing half. At least, that's what she says. Indy isn't so keen on the idea. But has a present for her nonetheless.
The day gets worse for Indy from there. Who shows up? Of course, it's that Dr. Voller guy from the train all those years ago, along and gun-toting goons and some overmatched CIA operatives. Another overlong chase ensues through a welcome-home parade for the moon-landing astronauts.
There are more complications from there. But the New York chapter ends when, trademark hat and whip in hand, Indy is off on yet another globe-trotting adventure. First stop: Morocco.
Dial of Destiny is the fifth, and final (or so they say), installment of a franchise that began in 1981 with Raiders of the Lost Ark. As the saying goes, you can't catch lightning in a bottle. Certainly you can't catch lightning twice. This offering doesn't have any credited influence by the original Spielberg/Lucas team. And it shows in a lack of originality, from the overwrought chase scenes, to the not too surprising plot twists (except maybe at the very end).
But it squeaks by as a recommendation. It's Harrison Ford, after all. Due to anemic writing, he's not the sarcastic Indy of the past. He's still interesting to watch when he's reluctantly getting pulled deeper into the pursuit of dangerous relics. And he's got a very capable foil in the person of Waller-Bridge, a capable but unfortunately mercenary antiquities thief whose knowledge of history — and fisticuffs — matches his. Together, their quibbling and teamwork make this movie watchable, if perhaps for sentimental reasons.
Mikkelsen, usually so effective as villains in particular, is unusually restrained, and seems even uncomfortable, as if straining against a director's nagging to dial it down.
Quibbles? Everybody, and the bad guys especially, have a too convenient way of showing up, inexplicably, in exactly the right place to intercept their prey. Another sign of loose scripting.
It's neither the best nor worst Indiana Jones adventure. Best I can say: I had fun watching it. It's certainly worth hanging on till the final showdown, when there are some fun twists and tense moments of decision for Indy and Helena.
That last gesture with the hat? What do you think that means?