Somewhere out there in the world are cinephiles and film journalists alike, decked out to the nines in tuxedos and gowns, basking in the glow of having just watched Harrison Ford in the final Indiana Jones movie, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, while mere feet away from French beaches overlooking at the Mediterranean Sea. Sadly, those journalists do not include us.
Nonetheless, it is pleasant to hear that James Mangold’s swan song for Harrison Ford’s signature role engendered a six-minute standing ovation from the people in the room. As you can see in the below tweet, the reaction to Indiana Jones left the crowd jubilant and Harrison Ford in tears as he accepted the cheers on the same day he received an honorary Palme d’Or at the prestigious film festival, which recognized a lifetime of work.
Indeed, Ford’s final cinematic ride in the fedora is a lifetime in the making, with Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny arriving 42 years after the first time Ford played Dr. Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark. That film changed the actor’s career trajectory even more than when he was cast as Han Solo. It is, in fact, a famous story that producer George Lucas was reluctant to cast Ford as Indy given their previous collaboration on Star Wars. Lucas instead favored Tom Selleck, but when Selleck’s TV career intervened at the last minute, forcing him to step away from the whip, Ford grabbed it and has never let go.
Over four decades, Ford has played Indy five times (or six if you count his cameo on the television series The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles in 1993). That includes the less than beloved previous outing, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), which turned out to be the last time Ford would be directed in the role by Steven Spielberg. Following that film’s mixed reception, there was a desire to find a better sendoff for the character, but as the years passed and Spielberg eventually dropped out of the project in 2020, it seemed possible that there would be no fifth Indiana Jones.
Yet here we are, with the film seemingly willed into existence by Ford (and Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy). The project is also co-written and directed by a filmmaker with a history of sticking the landing on swan songs, James Mangold. In addition to helming quality action movies and dramas like 3:10 to Yuma (2007), Ford v Ferrari (2019), and Walk the Line(2005), Mangold co-wrote and directed Logan (2017), the elegiac farewell to Hugh Jackman as Wolverine (at least until it wasn’t).
Mangold has stepped behind the camera on Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, bringing his Ford v Ferrari co-writers Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth, along for the ride into the sunset. The film also stars Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Mads Mikkelsen, and has already earned praise from a number of critics. Below is a round-up of some of their thoughts.
While the Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw compares Dial of Destiny unfavorably to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, he does praise Ford’s performance as perhaps a key reason it is so much better than Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Said Bradshaw, “[Jones] is, of course, played by the legendary Harrison Ford, now 80 years young, but carrying it off with humour and style and still nailing that reluctant crooked smile. It’s the first Indiana Jones film not to be directed by Steven Spielberg – James Mangold is now at the helm – but despite that, this one has quite a bit of zip and fun and narrative ingenuity with all its MacGuffiny silliness that the last one (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) really didn’t.”
Deadline‘s Stephanie Bunbury praised the film for its ability to mine nostalgia, and Mangold’s penchant for keeping the action quick and lively: “However much action swirls on the surface of this kind of film, its foundations are built of reassuring nostalgia. Just hearing John Williams’ score, yet another variant on the heroics and theatrics of the original, makes anyone of a certain age feel that everything is momentarily right with the world. Incoming director James Mangold gets plenty done before the titles, just as Spielberg always did, starting as he means to go on: endless action sequences can become so flabbily overblown they lose any punch, but he is never anything but brisk. One minute we’re with Indy underwater, looking for directions written in an Alexandrine code; next we’re at a Passion week procession in a Sicilian village: it moves along in the frame-by-comic book frame way that Raiders did, but with more international destinations.”
The Radio Times
The Radio Times‘ James Mottram gave the film four out of five stars, suggesting that it played it safe, but stuck the landing. Wrote Mottram, “There’s enough iconography – the whip, the fedora – close to hand anyway, to ensure you don’t forget you’re watching an Indiana Jones movie. The final reel may take a serious flight of fantasy, but unlike those aliens in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, it somehow feels an apt journey for Indy. Perhaps the film could’ve been more daring – it feels fairly safe – but fans will leave cinemas feeling like their old hero had one final great outing in him.”
The Telegraph‘s Robbie Collin was less impressed, saying, “Unfortunately, though, it ultimately feels like a counterfeit of priceless treasure: the shape and the gleam of it might be superficially convincing for a bit, but the shabbier craftsmanship gets all the more glaring the longer you look.” Collin ultimately gave the film two stars.
Total Film, meanwhile, gave the film four stars while announcing, “The action is slickly handled by Mangold, not least a thrilling tuk-tuk chase through Tangier. But best of all, this is an Indiana Jones film with tears in its eyes. We see the character has grown older, but not necessarily wiser. Drinking a bit too much, he’s full of regrets about pursuing fortune and glory and leaving his loved ones behind… By the end, though, you’ll have a smile on your face, especially when it comes to the final shot: an elegant tip of the hat to one of cinema’s greatest heroes.”
The Irish Times
Perhaps The Irish Times‘ Donald Clarke split the difference most deftly, recognizing the film is something of a make-up for Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but can never fully step out of the shadow of Spielberg’s original 1980s films. Clarke said, “Nobody with a brain in their heads will compare Dial of Destiny favourably to the first three films. There is a sense throughout of a project struggling to stand beneath the weight of its history. But Mangold, director of Logan and 3.10 to Yuma, knows how to keep his foot on the pedal. The recreations of the 1960s vistas are gorgeous. The agreeable cameos keep coming. Think of it as one of those halfway decent David Bowie albums from the 1990s. You like it well enough when it comes out, but, a few years later, you again find yourself reaching first for Aladdin Sane or Low. Or Temple of Doom. Or Last Crusade.”
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny opens on June 30.