Cast: Harrison Ford, Mads Mikkelsen, Phoebe Waller-Bridge
Director: James Mangold
Rating: Two stars (out of 5)
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny screened Out of Competition at the 76th Cannes Film Festival
This is not an adventure, those days have come and gone, a retired Indy says to his old friend Sallah (Welsh actor John Rhys-Davies, the only returning cast member) when the latter expresses the desire to accompany the archaeologist to Tangier in search of one half of a priceless relic known as the dial of destiny.
Professor Henry 'Indiana' Jones is spot-on. Those days have indeed come and gone. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny makes an attempt to recapture the magic and excitement of the first four films of the super-successful series helmed by Steven Spielberg. It succeeds only intermittently.
Spielberg isn't in the saddle and the ride is wildly erratic. The James Mangold-directed exercise is neither a movie experience that transports you back to the heydays of Indiana Jones nor a vehicle brimming with the sort of entertainment that can paper over glaring shortcomings. But that the makers of the film are not going to stop trying becomes amply clear in a protracted prelude that plays out in the last year of World War 2.
Indy has been captured by Nazi officers (these German-speaking blissfully oblivious of the fact that the war has ended, Berlin is in a shambles and the Fuhrer is in hiding) and is about to be executed. He makes a dash for freedom with his ally Basil Shaw (Toby Jones), riding on a rampaging train with bunch of baying Nazis in hot pursuit.
A surfeit of sporadically thrilling action marks the opening before the film seeks to deliver more of the same as it cuts to New York in 1969, the year of the first moon landing. In his search for the dial of destiny and in the fight to keep the bad guys at bay, Indiana Jones looks for a solid landing strip but never finds one.
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, which has Indy, his godchild Helena Shaw (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) and the former Nazis, led by the cold and clinical Jurgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen), in a race for a third century artefact is a cocktail of myth and math that does not exactly add up.
Archimedes, who is frequently mentioned as a mathematician and engineer of unparalleled genius, shows up as a significant part of the story when the characters travel across time - yes, the film has that too. The humour and the surrealistic flourish in the climax are submerged by an excess of spectacle and stunts.
In a scene in a cave that hides a few nasty surprises, Helena says to Indy, "You are not moving." The hero says: "I'm thinking." On most other occasions, the film does not give him much time to think. Indy gets emotional at times - his marriage is ending and a tragic personal loss haunts him - but the quieter moments in Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth and David Koepp's script do not deliver the expected percentage.
In any case, the pauses between the action set pieces and the frenetic chases - there are plenty of them, on horseback through the New York subway, in a boat in Spain, on planes and even on a tuk-tuk in Tangier - are few and far between and, therefore, do not create the breathing spaces that the film could have done with. A few of the gentler touches come close to being effective but that is about it.
Coming a decade and a half after the previous instalment (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Cystal Skull, 2008), Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, in terms of substance, continues from where it left off. The spirit isn't quite in place.
Eighty-year-old Harrison Ford makes a spry hero in his final bow as the intrepid, globe-trotting archaeologist but the material he is expected to breathe life into does not possess the necessary energy.
New cast members Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Antonio Banderas (in a cameo that ends abruptly), Toby Jones and Mads Mikkelsen, among others, do add some lustre to the film but it is all of a strictly superficial nature.
Harrison Ford is a Hollywood star in the old mould and his charisma is still strong enough to propel a film. His fans will have nothing to complain about but those looking for more than just sensory and visceral delights will find Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny disappointingly wanting.
"The world no longer cares for men like us," Voller says sarcastically to Indiana Jones in the course of one of their many confrontations. So, Indy's swan song lacks the power that would have made this film a befitting send-off to a loved fictional figure.
To sum up, back to something that Indiana Jones says in the film. Early on, he asks Helena Shaw: "Why are a chasing a thing that drove your father crazy?" Exactly our question. Indian Jones and the Dial of Destiny is a wild goose chase that goes nowhere. It isn't all doom and disaster but it is dispiritingly dull.
Harrison Ford, Mads Mikkelsen, Phoebe Waller-Bridge