Some time recently, in search of a movie to watch, I decided to put on a childhood favorite – Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. At first I was afraid that, all these years later, it would have lost some of the spark that once made me love the film. What I found was that the film, all these years later, continues to be one of the best adventures ever told.
Directed by Stephen Spielberg, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is the third outing for the famed archaeologist played by Harrison Ford. In it, Dr. Jones finds himself working with his father Henry (played by the great Sean Connery) as they race against the Nazi armies to find the legendary Holy Grail. The main cast is rounded out by John Rhys-Davies, Denholm Elliot, Allison Doody and Julian Glover.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade outdoes its predecessors in probably every department. While Raiders of the Lost Ark – the first film to feature the Jones character – continues to be the most iconic of the series, Crusade improves upon its action, its quest and, most importantly, its emotional core beautifully.
While the film is certainly an fun ride throughout its first act, it becomes truly amazing upon the introduction of Sean Connery as Dr. Henry Jones. The character dynamic between the bumbling history professor and his action hero son makes the film, giving it both its most side-splitting and heartwarming moments. Every single one of their interactions can only be describes as a triumph. This is helped, of course, by the incredible chemistry between Ford and Connery, whose pitch-perfect performances will make you believe they really are father and son (despite their age difference of only 12 years!).
With the introduction of Henry Sr (as well as the franchise’s most non-traditional female lead), the film also explores Indiana’s character much more thoroughly. The film finally gives us details on his origins and his family life, exploring how his circumstances have turned him into the man we have come to know. While Indy was definitely flawed already, this is the first time such a nuanced and emotional approach is taken to the character.
The rest of the cast is not to be overlooked, however. This movie focuses more on its supporting players than either previous Jones film, particularly on the returning Raiders characters of Marcus Brody (played by Denhom Elliot) and Sallah (John Rhys-Davies). Sallah was already a solid character in the first film, and it’s great to see Rhys-Davies flexing his comedic chops once more. Meanwhile, Marcus – who had a very small part in the first film – is given a much expanded role and takes his opportunity to firmly cement himself as another memorable member of the cast.
The journey itself is an important part of any Indiana Jones film, and this film’s quest for the Holy Grail is quite possibly the best. Indy was certainly capable in Raiders, but Crusade makes you believe he’s a master archaeologist better than any of the others. Making a character seem both smart and believable is a challenge to any writer, and this film rises to the challenge perfectly. The quest itself is also notable for putting the character’s skills to the test much more effectively than the first movie’s search for the Ark of the Covenant did, particularly in its climactic sequence.
When Stephen Spielberg made Raiders of the Lost Ark, his aim was to bring back the “great adventure” – and no one will deny that he succeeded. However, while Raiders was certainly the return of the great adventure, I believe Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade‘s perfect focus on exciting action, heartwarming emotion and endearing characters make it Spielberg’s greatest adventure.